Imagine being at a small gathering and, when your hostess hands you a beverage, you happen to glance into your glass while taking that first sip. Immediately, your blood goes ice cold and you nearly drop your drink because there is a face! In your glass! Looking back up at you!
And not just any face. It’s Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” face — that tormented upside-down lightbulb shrieking in agony from the depths of your cocktail. But before you give your hostess the cold shoulder and ice her out of your life forever, take another look. It’s just a bit of ice, and its shape is part of a growing trend in cool cocktail party ambience.
America has had a love affair with ice cubes since 1844, when Dr. John Gorrie put bits of ice in the drinks of his yellow fever patients in an effort to keep them cool and comfortable. Ice cubes soon traveled out of the hospitals and into the saloons, where patrons quickly became hooked on those tinkling, cooling, individual squares of ice that thoroughly enhanced their barroom experience. Travel outside of the States, and waiters are apt to be confused and irritated by our constant requests for ice. They just don’t get how bits of frozen water can be so very cool.
And they just keep getting cooler. The trend for shaped ice started several years ago, not with a scream, but with a large, crystal clear, ice sphere — approximately 2 inches in diameter — that upscale establishments began putting in their highball glasses whenever a patron ordered a drink on the rocks.
These beautiful icy creations have a couple of drawbacks. You can’t crunch them like regular cubes and, if you aren’t a careful sipper, you may get a jaw-breaking sphere of ice painfully colliding with your nose. But, because they melt much slower than would several regular-sized ice cubes, you have less alcohol dilution so your drink will stay stronger longer.
Spheres are just the tip of the iceberg. Using silicon molds, an endless variety of ice shapes adds a splash of chic to any cocktail party. If you are hosting a cinema night, consider making little sinking ice ships for Titanic, ice shark fins for Jaws, or Death Star ice spheres if you are planning to screen any of the Star Wars movies.
For a more fashionable cocktail party, little guitars made of ice are particularly cool. You can even create shot glasses made entirely of ice, but your guests had better be quick drinkers. The drip from the ice is messy, and holding a chunk of frozen water in your bare hands for any length of time can be quite painful. It might be better to make fun of pain by dropping little icy brain-freeze brain-shapes into everyone’s glass-made-out-of-glass instead. People staying too long? No problem. Drop some centipede ice or disgusting denture-looking creations into everyone’s glass, and you’ll be sure to clear the room.
Your ice-capades need not be limited to adult beverages. Plenty of molds make fun kid-friendly creations, such as dinosaurs, penguins, princess wands, and icy replicas of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For any type of gathering, an ice mold will fit.
Remember that nothing kills a chill party mood quite like cloudy ice, so make sure your ice creations are crystal clear. Several methods will help you achieve translucent-looking ice.
The boiling method involves, yes, boiling. Start with any sort of pure water — easily purchased from the grocery store — then boil it. Once it has boiled a bit, put the lid on the pot — to prevent any particles from settling back into the water — and let it cool. Then boil it again. Cover again and, after it has cooled sufficiently so as not to melt the silicone, pour the twice-boiled water into your mold of choice, and freeze it for several hours. The resulting ice shapes should be quite clear.
The “Top-Down” method doesn’t require any boiling, but it does require a drink cooler that is small enough to fit into your freezer. Pour pure water into your molds, then set them at the bottom of the cooler. Pour additional water around the molds, so that the molds are halfway submerged. Place the cooler, without the lid, in your freezer and leave it there for 24 hours. Carefully chip away the bottom ice to release your molds, unmold, and voila! Clear as ice!
Whichever method you use, it’s all cool beans — and yes, there is a cool beans ice mold. Shaped ice might cause a scream or two, but it is just so stone-cold cool. And anything else just doesn’t cut ice.