Bartenders are a very exacting breed. The precision of their measurements and perfect execution of a cocktail is the polar-opposite to my ‘chuck it all in’ style cooking. But having worked at cocktail magazine, Diffordsguide, for a year, one thing did rub off on me: a mild neurosis about ice cubes.
All too often, someone will crack open a nice bottle of gin and make sure that the tonic water is fresh and fizzy. They’ll reach for a highball, carefully cut a wedge of lemon … and then put anaemic little ice cubes in the glass. Within five minutes – often less – the frail little cubes have collapsed and melted, diluting the gin and leeching the fizz out of the tonic. What a waste!
The point of an ice cube is to chill a drink, not melt into the drink. To do this, you really need something more robust than a standard ice cube tray, as the large surface area of the small cubes means that the ice usually melts too quickly.
The connoisseur’s option, and by far the most superior choice is to use a block of ice and an ice pick. This isn’t always practical though. It also has the downside of creating an (often unwanted) Basic Instinct, neo-noir kind of vibe. Definitely don’t go down this route if there’s even the smallest chance that you may be living with or, even worse, sleeping with a psychopath.
There’s the option of those big ice balls which seem quite popular at the moment. But they’re a bit gimmicky, and they roll about restlessly in the glass, never really getting traction on anything and making me all dizzy. Not what you need on your third gin and tonic. Then there’s the option of buying a £1 bag of ice. I did this for a bit. But then I began to resent handing over a one pound coin for frozen water. Also, the bag always seemed to run out on hot days when we really needed it.
So I finally bit the bullet and bought a whopper of an ice cube tray from Nisbets, £7.99 (excluding VAT, as is always the way with Nisbets). It’s very dorky to talk with such sincerity about a simple piece of kitchen equipment, but I wish I’d bought this years ago. Oh, the joy of properly chilled drinks! I’ve been quaffing iced coffee with gusto, and the temperature these ice cubes chill liquids to even makes tap water taste better.
The ice cube tray makes 32 cubes in one batch, but it’s the size of the actual ice cubes which is so great – about three times normal ice cubes. The tray comes in a rather smart plastic cradle, so you can carry it from the sink to the freezer without sloshing about too much water, and it’s made from silicon so the ice cubes pop out really easily. I imagine it would be useful for freezing baby food purées or stock too.
I tried to take a photograph to show how big the cubes are, but photographing ice, glasses and liquid is notoriously tricky, and I’m not sure I did the finest job. Still, hopefully this gives some sort of impression. If not, then you’ll just have to take my word for it that this really is a great ice cube tray! A sentence I never thought I would write.
Ice Cube Tray, Nisbets, £7.99 (ex VAT)