We are finally having a spot of winter-appropriate weather here in Kentucky, including some sleet earlier this week, which got me to thinking about ice. Sometimes, ice is bad – when it coats your steps, for instance. Sometimes, ice is good. It can keep your drink cold, for instance. But that can also have a down side. The first few sips are terrific, with the ice smoothing out the fire of your bourbon. But then the ice starts to melt, and the last few sips are a watered-down mess.
Enter the giant ice cube. The classic cocktail craze, and the bourbon renaissance in general, have engendered a whole new interest in ice. Some bars take great pride in chipping the ice for their drinks from a big ol’ block of it. Others serve their drinks over molded ice spheres – the Old Fashioned at St. Charles Exchange, for instance. I’ve seen devices you can buy to make these spheres at home, but they were cost-prohibitive. A few years ago, Maker’s Mark sent its ambassadors a mold to make a sphere, but I could never get the thing to work just right.
Then, just before Christmas, as I was browing the shelves of my local Liquor Barn for last-minute gift ideas, I came across the silicon ice-cube tray shown above. It promised to make six extra-large, easily removable ice cubes that would enhance my drink without diluting it. All for about $8.49. I bought it, filled it and stuck it in the freezer. The other night, I easily removed a big cube and poured my bourbon over it.
And sure enough, it made an appreciable difference. The cube cooled the drink quickly, but it melted very slowly, helping to “open up” the bourbon but never diluting it. Like so many things in life, including bourbon, we can thank science for this phenomenon. Big ice cubes melt more slowly than little ones because of their surface-to-volume ratio. A sphere would melt even more slowly than my big ice squares, but I’ll trade that tiny difference in melting time for the difference in ease of preparation. And the big ice cubes still look pretty cool, too.