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December is a month jammed with parties and special events (read: lots of drinking occasions). When hosting your own festivity, put as much thought into the ice that chills the cocktails as the drinks themselves. That’s right—the artisanal ice trend hasn’t faded yet, and it’s a great way to impress your guests.
Michael Cerretani, bar manager at Session Kitchen, shared a few of his trade secrets with us. From changing shape to using ice that’s not actually ice at all, here are five frozen ideas to liven up the holiday celebration.
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Who needs water? Freeze juice instead. In an ideal world (i.e. plenty of time), you would run your fruit of choice through the juicer at home. Want more pulp? Buy a purée at the store and freeze that instead. Once frozen in an ice tray, you can drop a cube into a spirit or mixed drink.
Suggestions: frozen apple juice and bourbon (pictured). Or, create a whiskey sour: Freeze an ounce of lemon juice with a teaspoon of sugar. Then add to two ounces of whiskey, and enjoy the evolving flavor as the ice melts.
Forget the ice tray—freeze produce instead. Using slices of fruit or even veggies to chill a drink is a growing trend, and we can see why. Where water dilutes a cocktail, something like frozen blackberries actually enhance the flavor.
Suggestion: floral gin, accompanied by frozen strawberries.
An ice block of decarbonized soda can be a great twist for classic recipes. To remove carbonation and prevent air bubbles in the ice, pop open a can of your favorite soda and pour it back and forth between two pint glasses. Once it’s relatively free of oxygen, freeze, and add to the spirit of your choice.
Suggestion: black cherry soda and whiskey.
In the case of ice, size matters. The surface area of an ice cube affects the way it melts—and how your cocktail tastes. Want to enjoy a whiskey with a tad of lemon? Use a large, square cube of frozen water and lemon juice that will be slow to melt. Or, put a twist on rum and Coke and use several, small chunks of the frozen soda.
One of the simplest ways to enhance a drink is with decoratively-shaped ice cubes. From animal to floral shapes, you can get creative (Cerretani recommends Sur La Table for fun ice trays). Another thought: You can freeze flowers or pine needles inside of ice for an aesthetically pleasing way to liven up your drink.
Bonus: Don’t feel like making specialty ice at home? Williams & Graham sells its premium ice. The emerald-cut ice is dense and melts slowly, making it perfect for cocktails that should taste the same from start to finish. A box of four cubes runs $5, and is sold at Mondo Vino, the Proper Pour, and inside the Highland speakeasy.
—Main image courtesy of Session Kitchen
Follow digital assistant editor Jerilyn Forsythe on Twitter at @jlforsyt.