The Big Chill: A Guide To Ice Alternatives

A Guide To Ice Alternatives

The Big Chill

The Big Chill: A Guide To Ice Alternatives

In the past, we’ve discussed the myriad ways that vodka – a neutral spirit – gets its flavor, how to experience that flavor, and even how that flavor changes with temperature.

With that in mind, the last frontier for our consideration has to do with exactly how we chill our drinks. Just as we know that all ice isn’t alike, we should consider that sometimes ice isn’t even the right option at all when it comes to making a crisp, cold cocktail.

Soapstone: Often branded as ‘whiskey stones’ because of the prevalence of use with that particular liquor, these are both a simple and interesting way to chill almost any spirit. Crafted from food-safe soapstone and often available in a variety of shapes from a simple cube to those of your wildest geometric imaginations, the primary selling point here is that they chill your spirit without the pesky side effect of dilution.

Now loyal readers of the Mule Blog are probably saying, “wait a minute, I thought dilution was a good thing for opening up a spirit!”. While this is true, these stones still have a myriad of beneficial uses: they’re great for cooling room-temperature spirits down without turning them into water-based cocktails, they can hold a highly chilled drink at a low temp for longer so you can experience an unadulterated tasting as it warms, and ultimately they just look cool and are a guaranteed conversation starter at your next party.

Metallics: Much like the soapstone cubes mentioned above, these metallic cubes comes in various sizes and shapes and are almost always crafted from food-safe stainless steel (if they aren’t, do not buy them). One benefit of these ‘stones’ over the above is that they chill extremely quickly and are pretty much no-maintenance. Here are the Mule we like using the smaller, ball-bearing style ones in a cocktail shaker to rapidly chill a drink before pouring it over a glass filled with traditional ice: this allows the drinker to experience the purity of the original cocktail recipe at first, and then see how it opens up as the ice in their glass melts.

Silicon: We are going to admit that these are not our favorite option, mostly because even a food-safe silicon product still feels a little plastic-y when it’s bobbing around in our cocktail. That being said, sometimes a person is having a party – or just wants to drink tiki-style drink – and these bright, and multi-shaped ‘cubes’ are just what the doctor ordered. Crafted with a silicon skin and filled with a chilling gel – think a medi-pack you might use on a sprained ankle – these don’t have the cooling speed of the steel, or the long-term chill of soapstone, but they do have the dual benefits of being both inexpensive and a lot of fun.

Ice: Ice? In an “ice alternatives” article?…Yes. As we’ve mentioned in passing in previous articles, the ice you make at home is not the ice your local cocktail spot uses. It’s not even the ice you can get at your better corner-stores.

Not all ice is created equal, and factors like whether you filter your tap water, how cold your freezer is, and what type of tray you use can all affect the final product. Though we could write a dissertation on ice, we’ll leave you with this advice. Head to your local grocer or liquor store and look for the clearest ice you can buy in the biggest cube-size (more like chips or hunks) you can find. This means that the ice is made out of high-quality water and frozen while slowly flowing, allowing it to freeze consistently throughout with no mineral settling. Trust us, the $5 you might spend on a bag is well worth it.