You can thank Camper English for the beautiful crystalline ice all over social media feeds and in cocktail bars everywhere. The longtime proponent and go-to expert of clear ice first spotlighted directional freezing on his award-winning Alcademics blog in 2009. Fast-forward to today, and English has poured all this ice expertise into his new book, The Ice Book: Cool Cubes, Clear Spheres, and Other Chill Cocktail Crafts (available May 23). Home bartenders can learn how to dress up their cocktails with flowers embedded in cubes, diamond-cut ice, and frozen vessels, such as ice spheres.
The ice sphere trick came out of Chicago’s molecular mixology cocktail bar, The Aviary. And, according to English, it works best with stirred cocktails, as they’ll need to be freezed prior to pouring them into the sphere. Here are English’s instructions, excerpted from The Ice Book.
Make a Drink Inside an Ice Sphere
1. Fill an ice sphere mold with water and place it in the freezer. (Actually, put several in the freezer so you can test to see when they’re ready.) Do not use a directional freezing system: in this case we want the ice to freeze from the outside in. You can even use a water balloon for this; just be sure to flush out the powdery stuff inside it before filling it in the sink.
2. Mix your cocktail, and store it in the freezer. You want it to get as cold as ice so that it doesn’t melt the ice shell later.
3. After about three hours of freezing, test a sphere to see if the ice is thick enough to poke a hole through the surface without smashing the whole sphere. If not, wait another hour and try again. Too thick of an ice shell means it will be harder to poke the hole; too thin means your shell is more likely to crack during handling.
4. To poke the hole through the ice sphere, The Aviary staff use a drill with a tiny drill bit. I have used a narrow metal straw, a pointy ice pick, a knife, and the end of a metal cocktail pick heated up in hot water to melt the hole.
5. Drain the water. You can shake the water out (you may need to insert a straw or eye dropper or something else inside to encourage it). Bars making a lot of these often use a syringe to suck out the water. They also use the syringe to reinsert the cocktail.
6. Fill the ice shell with your cocktail. Use a syringe or a pipette or tiny funnel.
7. Serve. Set the cocktail in an Old-Fashioned glass. To smash the cocktail open, use the back of a small spoon, a mini muddler, or a mini hammer.
This excerpt is reprinted with permission from The Ice Book: Cool Cubes, Clear Spheres, and Other Chill Cocktail Crafts by Camper English. Published by Red Lightning Books. © 2023 by Camper English.