Technique: Decorative Ice Cubes

Learn how to make your ice cubes look like part of your libation.


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Ice is a critical part of most cocktails: It chills a drink as well as dilutes it, imparting a (hopefully) desirable amount of water into the cocktail. But that's not the only thing it's being used for these days. Mixologists are turning to ice for more decorative purposes, freezing spices and petals into cubes to make the perfect-looking cocktail. Many bartenders recommend using at least 1-inch cubes to slow down the dilution process, such as those dispensed by a Kold-Draft machine. (Silicone ice molds also can be used to create 1-inch square cubes at home.)

When making decorative ice cubes, consider these two tips:
 

Option #1: Freeze a decorative element inside an ice cube, such as a slice of fresh chili pepper, lemon rind or edible flower petals. To make fancy ice cubes, freeze them in three stages:
1. Half-fill each compartment of an ice cube tray with water and allow it to freeze.
2. Dip each decorative element (pepper round, etc.) into water and place one in each cube compartment. Return to freezer for a couple of hours.  
3. Fill up the ice cube trays with water and freeze until solid.

Option #2: Add color and flavor to ice cubes by freezing simple syrup, fruit juice, or coffee or tea. (Don’t bother trying to freeze liquor.) Take into account how the melting ice will impact the cocktail—in other words, it’s best to freeze an ingredient that is already part of the cocktail or will add a complementary flavor as it melts.

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