Category: Ice
Ice, Rule 2, Tiki Month 2016

Ice, Ice, Baby!

[caption id="attachment_10925" align="aligncenter" width="550"]That hair looks almost like a fez from this angle... That hair looks almost like a fez from this angle...[/caption] To do Tiki right, there has to be a conversation about ice. Relax. I'm not suggesting that you are going to have to throw on a white lab coat and go all di-hydrogen monoxide thermal engineer like you are Camper English or anything. Nor do you need to establish an elaborate ice program with custom chunks from Manchester, either. But ice is a bigger issue with Tiki drinks than with most others, and for reasons that are not always the obvious. Humuhumu wrote an excellent piece last November that I've kept in my browser since, in anticipation of this post during Tiki Month. Entitled An Easy Fix for Your Tiki Drinks: Tweaking Your Shake, it has some cool Tiki history and an excellent primer on what the word "blend" actually means in most historic Tiki recipes. It's all a good read, so make sure you follow the link. The part I want to focus on is that in order to produce the desired effect of a Tiki recipe that says "flash blend for about five seconds", the bar tool you need is not a blender of any kind at all. The bar tool that you need... is ice. The majority of the work done on a drink is not by the shaker itself, nor the person agitating it. The changes to the ingredients come from the ice trapped in the shaker with the liquids. Ice is perhaps the most universal element of any bar, professional or amateur. It is, of course, a refrigerant. But it is also an ingredient. And it can be a garnish. Most people comprehend these three elements of ice's usage, if only subconsciously. It is also good to keep in mind that sometimes these effects of ice on a drink can be a little counter-intuitive. The fourth element of what ice does to a drink is mechanical action, and it is this effect that is generally more important in Tiki drinks than in any other cocktail genre. While being shaken, ice does two things. It shatters itself, and it aerates the liquid. The more you agitate it, the more it does these. And both have similar effects on the texture and flavor of the drink. A slurry of tiny ice shards lightens a drink, and a lot of tiny bubbles does the same, in flavor and in texture. That lightness is important to most Tiki drinks. Next time you make one, have a good full sip before you introduce any ice. The flavors may be great, but the texture will be nearly undrinkable. [caption id="attachment_10970" align="aligncenter" width="550"]The results of a really good shake. The results of a really good shake.[/caption] A Tiki shake is not a regular shake. It is longer. The ingredients will often not mix as readily as more common bar ingredients, will be able to retain a lot more air that usual, and will benefit from that air. When mixing a SideCar or a Daiquiri, I usually shake just until the tin starts to bite my hand from the chill. At that point, 90% of the chilling possible from your ice has taken place. But in a Tiki shake, you keep going and endure the pain. You need those shards and that air, and it is a case of the longer and harder it is, the better the results.
That's what she...
Shut. Up. Of course, if you use a blender of some kind, be it stick or carafe, you can get even more agitation in much less time. If you have the means and can take the noise, that's great. But be careful about the recipe's instructions! There are two traditional modes of employing a blender in Tiki drinks, the flash blend and blending smooth. Don't mix them up, because a recipe balanced for one will almost never taste good if you do the other. Blending smooth, as with a drink like the Missionary's Downfall, can really only happen in a blender. You want a final texture like an Icee, with uniform tiny ice particles distributed evenly throughout the liquid. A smooth blend introduces a ton of dilution, a ton of air, and makes for an extremely cold drink. And the drinks that employ a smooth blend need all that. Don't bother with these drinks unless you have a blender, or a lot of time and booze to pour out while you rejigger the ratios. Drinks like the Jet Pilot call for that magical "flash blend for five seconds". The result here is a frothy slurry, rather than a smooth drink. And you don't need a blender to achieve it at all. As long as you use cracked ice (more surface area, more edges makes for more slivers/dilution), you can achieve in a thirty-plus second vigorous shake what you did in five seconds in the blender. In a professional Tiki bar, the electric blender means realistically fast service and fewer repetitive-motion injuries to your staff. At home, it is a lot of noise and a lot of extra clean up. As you gain experience making Tiki drinks, it is worth it to put a little thought into what workflow you want to employ. But the most important thing is to know what your resulting texture should be, so you can employ whatever method to get you there.abc
Ice

Ice Geekery on the Web

Kristoff, The Disney Ice Geek
"Ice is my life!"
Now ice geeks are even getting the a princess in Disney movies!
Ice has been big on my mind lately, not least of which because of the entire family of ear-worms that have taken up residence in my skull after seeing Disney's iceapalooza Frozen. (If you haven't seen it, consider going, even if you don't have kids.) My ice thoughts may also have been prompted by Earth pulling its atmospheric hat down over its forehead, leaving 90% of the US feeling like it got relocated to Birds-Eye warehouse. Screw you, California! (Shakes mittened fist) Also, a lot of excellent ice reading has appeared on the web in the last few days that is worth a post that rounds it all up for you. I'll start with the straight cocktail ice stuff. Thrillist's Scotchtales blog has two excellent articles on ice geekery in drinks. The first is 9 Crazy Historical Facts About the Ice in Your Drink. (They are hiring Buzzfeed headline writers over there, apparently) The big takeaway from the article is how large an industry cutting ice from frozen lakes (back to Kristoff from Frozen again) and shipping it world-wide was before, and even for a while after, mechanical refrigeration was invented. It's an entertaining read, full of skullduggery, bankruptcy, slander, and fingertips being lost to frost bite. Also, we are reminded that the only thing worse for a French politician's reputation than not leaving his mistress for a hotter mistress is serving hot wine.
tmg-slideshow_xxl
Source: Thrillist
The companion piece by Ted Smith, is Want Better Drinks? Use Better Ice. The experienced cocktail ice manipulator will find little new here, but it is a good outline of why different ice for different jobs is so useful a pice of knowledge. There is other stuff to read too, along with some cool pics. In the non-cocktail centric ice news, did you know that there is an ice-obsessed international sporting event taking place shortly? If not, NBC wants a word with its marketing department, because they missed you.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

There is a lot of folderol in that video, but there is also perhaps the best explanation of why skates and skis work I've seen. Ice isn't just slippery, it is uniquely slippery. Gizmodo asks a really fascinating question, What Happens When Water Freezes in a Box so Strong it Can't Expand? It turns out this is a question perilously close to "Can God make a rock so heavy she can't lift it?" Water really, really, really wants to expand when it crystallizes. It exerts about 43,500 pounds per square inch of pressure when freezing... I don't know about you, but even if I held my ice mold closed with my bare hands, I couldn't even manage half that pressure. There's lots more here about the fact that there are all sorts of exotic ice forms that can be created with crazy pressures and temperature, but I think we're safe from ungodly snooty Williamsburg cocktail dens telling us your Old Fashioned isn't "authentic" without a cube of Ice VII to chill it... for a while yet, at least. Now, a lot of Americans who weren't used to Polar Vortexes wanted to give the instant snow trick a try, and got burned. Apparently, you shouldn't throw the boiling water straight up over your head. Who knew? I think this trick is best left to the Canadians, who show the singular lack of judgement to live in a place where it can be practiced more than once every twenty years. And, since everyone knows that Canadians are just Russians who speak English, but don't document their shenanigans with omnipresent dashcams, I include here for your pleasure the best snow-making video I've been able to find: Given that this guy is speaking in English, I suspect this video is actually a KGB plot to get Americans to kill ourselves so the Russians don't have to.
Vladimir Putin think you're adorably gullible."What? KGB no longer exists?
You are adorable!"
I will close with some advice form Dave Wondrich that I mentioned earlier in the SideBlog. Twitter is a hard medium in which to impart real, advanced cocktail knowledge, but Dave absolutely nails it on the subject of ice: abc
Accessories, Ice, Lime Juice

This Year’s Christmas Gift for the Bar Nerd in Your Life

It is Cyber Monday at Amazon and a zillion other websites. I was perusing to see what is out there for my wife, kids, and myself (As usual, I have been informed that I am hard to shop for), when I noticed a sale at Amazon on an item that most bar nerds like me think they have... but don't. Fresh Force Citrus Juicer
You're wrong. I don't think I have a citrus juicer. I know I have a citrus juicer. Three of 'em, in fact!
Yeah, but if none of them are these Chef'n FreshForce Juicers, then you need one. At first glance, these juicers look just like the much more common Amco or OXO types you see almost everywhere. The FreshForce even comes in green, yellow, and orange, corresponding in size to your citrus of desire. You even use it exactly the same way you use those other squeeze juicers. The difference is in the engineering of the hinge. Look at the photo above. You can see a larger view on the Amazon page. Unlike the older models, it isn't a hinge at all. It's a gear-driven, multi-lever apparatus that gives you a helluva lot more leverage, and more leverage means more juice extracted from each piece of fruit. More leverage also means that for those of us who are Old™ (I'm not really that old, but when I play a lot of tennis, my hands feel like I am), it is much easier to operate. Regardless of your digital strength and flexibility, during that time of the year when all the limes are hard and have that thick skin (you know when I'm talking about), using one of these improved juicers makes it much less like a bare-handed struggle to the death with an Amazon boa constrictor to get enough lime juice for your Pegu. As I write this, though perhaps not when you read it, the yellow "lemon-sized" FreshForce is a Cyber Monday deal at Amazon for nineteen bucks. The orange-sized is a whopping thirty-eight. The lime is twenty, which is more than the lemon. You do not need the lime juicer, as the lemon does a great job on limes anyway. One other Amazon deal I happened upon while checking out these juicers is a set of two of the Tovolo spherical ice molds. At less than eight bucks right now, they are pretty worth while. They don't make clear ice, but no work, no brainer big ice makes Old-Fashioneds easier to do right. Of course, none of these products do me any good as far as my Christmas list goes, since I already have them. What kind of bar geek toy do I need that I don't have? Anybody? Bueller? Bueller? UPDATE: This bar product is also on sale for Cyber Monday. Do not buy it. Don't even look at it. abc
science

Mythbusters Shake and Stir

I do not know how I missed this, since Mythbusters is among my family's favorite shows, but in one of the James Bond episodes, they took on the issue of the Gospel of Gin: Shaken or Stirred. It warms my heart to see that once again, they get it right. (And Bond gets it wrong) They leave out only two things here. One they should have. One they should not have. They rightly left out all mention of "bruising" things. I seriously doubt that gin bruises anyway. Some folks claim it is the vermouth that gets bruised, but I also doubt this. I'd suggest instead that people who shake Martinis are a careless and neglectful sort who probably let their vermouth go bad with age, and that's where the ill flavor comes from. What they should have addressed a bit deeper, because it is a serious problem for a lot of still learning cocktail-philes, is the issue of dilution. They do note that the problem with the shaken Martini is that it is too diluted. But they'd have done well to add a few seconds to the effect that some dilution is essential to every cocktail. Always remember, the ice is more than coolant. It is an ingredient. Too little is just as bad as too much.abc
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