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Ice. Rocks. Diamonds. Snow Miser Testicles. Call frozen water by any other name, (we’re at least 75% sure no one has called it the third one) that beautiful bit of glass-like cold is one of the pillars of cocktail creation.
However, much like anything else that quickly gains a following among the culinary élite, the question of quality comes down to not just the spirits, mixers, and ingredients, but ice as well.
Now, there’s a lot of truth to this seemingly douchey level of obsession with the ice in the drink. While it may seem incidental, consider this: the ice is hanging out in the drink the longest. Since the earliest days of the craft, mixologist have realized that the ice has a profound effect on the end taste of the drink. If the ice melts too fast when you want it to linger you end up with a watery cup of suck. If the ice melts too slow when you want it to melt quickly, your flavor is off-balance. You use city tap water without filtering it or boiling it, you’re gross. Seriously. Stop that shit.
In general, the longer the ice lingers, the better for your drink. It keeps the drink cool without watering it down, especially if you’re like us and you keep pushing for the relaxed sipping and not blind bro shooting.
We’ve played around with whiskey rocks before. And while they’re handy for taking a smidge of the edge off of a neat whiskey, there’s no way they would actually act as real, honest-to-god ice replacement. They just don’t get cold enough and/or hold that chill for nearly enough time.
Enter ice balls.
The big claim to fame with ice balls is that by offering a denser, larger area, it doesn’t melt nearly as quickly as a bunch of smaller cubes in the glass. There’s science that backs this up. (Side note: be sure to read that linked blog as the whole process, and the results, are pretty… cool… Sorry.)
While we’ve mixed with ice balls ourselves, we never really put them to test to see how effective they were in controlled settings. And by controlled settings, I mean the Cocktails, 365 test bar which includes a humidor packed with cigars and a BBQ grill. So, not exactly super controlled. But, over the past several months, we’ve run the Arctic Chill ice ball molds their paces. We’ve tried different filling levels, different types of water, etc.
As an added bonus, they almost always look like ice boobs. And, because we’re really all 12 year olds here at Cocktails, 365, that is freakin’ hilarious.
We wanted to test these molds under three criteria:
- Durability of the molds
- Consistency of the freeze
- Efficacy/longevity of the ice ball
Because Arctic Chill was kind enough to send these to us to review, we didn’t feel too bad seeing what sort of abuse we could put them through in an effort simulate a real commercial bar setting.
Over the course of the past month we have: cleaned them by hand, ran them through the dishwasher, filled them until they were overflowing, filled them halfway, scrubbed them with vinegar and water, poured boiling water into them, took a wire brush to them, stretched them, left them out in the rain, and walked over them.
Those little bastards bounced back to their correct shape within five minutes every single time. While they are technically dishwasher safe, I found that a thorough scrubbing with a soft bristle brush and hot water with soap is the best. If you reuse these molds over and over you’ll start to notice a film forming inside the mold. This will then create nasty-ass floaties in the drink and it ruins the presentation. These floaties occurred no matter if we used filtered, bottled, distilled, spring, mineral, or even water straight out of the tap. These floaties don’t seem to change the flavor or consistency of the drink in any way, but they are unsightly. So, scrub those bitches down between each use to ensure you don’t have unpleasant (ice) ball dandruff.
Now on to usage tests.
Best Type of Water
Mineral Water: Lots of cracks throughout the ball, I’m guessing because we froze it while the carbonation remained. Has a pleasant, distinct flavor from the mineral water. Excellent in scotch and whiskies, but not in other cocktails.
Filtered Water: This is your base-level water to use. It freezes well, creates an attractive, dense ice ball and doesn’t require a lot of extra work.
Boiled Water: No huge differences in the taste or freezing from the other waters. More than anything, just added another extra step to the whole process. May as well just go with filtered water.
Distilled Water: Fewer cracks than the others. It has a prettier, more clear look to it. It also has the smallest impact on the flavor of the drink. If you’ve got the dime and the time, filling these with distilled water is going to add just extra oomph.
Best Level to Fill
Here’s the trick – how do you pour enough water in to make sure the ball still looks good without cracks, but still getting an easy-to-open mold. We found that the best way to fill them is fill the mold until its overflowing and then pour just a little bit out. If you do this, then you’ll have a nice round ball (hehe) that’s easy to remove from the mold.
Removing from the Mold
We’d recommend letting the mold sit out for at least a minute before removing it. This lets it pull away from the mold a bit and makes digging it out a lot easier.
Storing the Ice Balls
We went ahead and froze about eight balls to store (two sets of the four) and placed them in our freezer. They held together great without sticking to anything in the freezer, so if you want to prepare quite a few before a big night, it would be a good idea.
If want that really nice, shiny, clear look, run the ball under cold water to take off the jagged edges before placing in the glass.
The Arctic Chill ice ball mold is actually pretty outstanding. Other than making sure you’re scrubbing them between uses, it’s reliable and makes consistent balls. They’re roughly $16 on Amazon, which pushes a bit more to the expensive end of the ice makers. With the ease of their use, we’ve actually started using the ice balls in all of our cocktails served over the rocks.