Adventures in Ice Making
Thoughts from our latest Whiskey Party
Deep into a Chicago winter that refused to end even through April, we decided to throw our first Whiskey Party of the year. Our parties give us a chance to share the whiskey from our cabinet (especially bottles we’d like to finish!) along with whiskey cocktails and plenty of food. For this party, we decided to try something we hadn’t done for past events and attempted to make our own large ice “cubes”. Given that we typically take our whiskey neat, we had never tried to make large cubes before, and hadn't expected the challenge of what was to come. After all, ice is just frozen water, right?
We received Star Wars themed ice molds for Christmas and have collected a few other molds from events and decided to finally put them to use. We used filtered water to make the ice and when it was time to take them out of the molds...the ice was completely cloudy and were not attractive at all. As it turns out, the white coloring in cubes is due to impurities and air bubbles in the water that are pushed towards the center as the ice freezes from the outside-in/top-down. This causes the ice to melt quicker, and looks unappealing.
Our search into more effective techniques yielded many results and tips, including boiling tap water twice which we set out to try. While the twice-boiled water created a noticeable difference in the clarity of this ice, it was still considerably cloudy in the center of the cube. Luckily, we had several gallons of distilled water on hand for our humidifier (thanks to what has felt like the longest and driest winter) and decided to double boil that, hopeful that it would yield better results.
We eagerly checked the ice molds the next morning and while there was a noticeable improvement yet again, the significant cloudiness remained. While the type of water used made some difference in the batches, the larger factor at play was how the ice was freezing—top-down. A simple search will present you with a variety of options on how to overcome this such as putting molds into uncovered coolers and then putting the cooler into the freezer or using salt water baths. Frankly, we don't have the time or space for any of that, so we settled for the least cloudy batch of ice we made.
Ultimately, if you’re someone that takes your whiskey on the rocks, we’d recommend investing in a mold that is specifically designed to regulate the freezing process to remove air bubbles and impurities. This will create a better guarantee that you’ll end up with clear cubes every time. We’ve seen options that can range anywhere from $20 to a few hundred dollars for personal-sized molds that yield up to a few cubes or spheres at a time. Luckily, as is the trend with most of the beverage industry, artisanal craft ice is becoming more common, so if we’re ever in need of clear cubes for a future party we’ll be able to pick some up.
Aside from the ice, the night featured our usual set-up with the bottles that we were hoping to drain (in anticipation of replacing them with new varieties). This time around, that included The Singleton, Lagavulin Distillers Edition, The Quiet Man Irish Single Malt, as well as a few Bourbons and other American Whiskeys. Since we never want anyone drinking on empty stomachs, we put together some of our typical charcuterie plates along with some heartier options.
While many drams were had, some of the favorites of the night were a bottle Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Islay Barley and the Singleton, which went very quickly. We invited many whiskey newcomers to this event and were surprised that more than a few were interested in a guided tour of peated whisky. We typically start guests who are new to whiskey with a Speyside single malt or a blend, as these categories are typically very balanced and fruit forward. This time around, peat smoke was in high demand, and several guests tasted their way around Islay in increasingly peated whiskies from a the aforementioned Lagavulin, a Laphroaig PX, the Port Charlotte, and even a bottle of Ardbeg Corryvreckan. We always feel rewarded when we have guests who are interested in trying something new.
Overall, the night was a success, not only because we enjoyed the company of our friends while helping them find new favorites, but also because we successfully finished 5 bottles—and empty cabinet space means more room for new whiskeys.