People love fancy ice, and we definitely get it. There’s something undeniably magical about the impossibly clear cubes, perfectly round spheres, and piles of crunchy pebble ice that accompany the cocktails served in our favorite bars. But while fancy ice is a crucial part of enjoying a drink while you’re out, allow us a controversial opinion: showy ice should stay at the bar. I know, we’re no fun, but there’s a reason we used the phrase “impossibly clear” above. The simple fact is that making bar-quality ice at home is, if not literally impossible, at least close enough that it’s rarely worth trying. The equipment and techniques are so specialized that some bars, like Chicago’s lauded Violet Hour, employ a dedicated staff who work in a room custom built just for ice making, and many cocktail bars forego the process altogether (did you know that in every city in the US with a decent bar scene, there exists a company that offers commercial custom ice services?).
For the reasons enumerated above, and because we believe that home drink making should be primarily fun, we eschew fancy ice altogether. We don’t even have an built-in ice maker on the fridge, and we certainly don’t use the many commercially available ice molds littering the market (not to mention those obscenely expensive countertop pebble ice makers!). As San Francisco cocktail writer Camper English thoroughly explains in his recently published Ice Book, getting crystal clear ice at home is simply not possible when using off-the-shelf molds, and if you’re going through the trouble to perfectly shape a piece of ice that can never be clear, well, you’re wasting time that could be spent drinking.
Now, we love a deep dive, and while it can often be fun to spend the better part of a weekend nailing down a new culinary technique, generally the rabbit hole of fancy ice making is not one we’re keen to explore (but we love Camper… buy his book!). What we do recommend is buying ice at the store, preferably in large quantities! Because as much as we’re indifferent to the shape and/or clarity of the ice we serve at home, we do strongly believe that party ice should exist in abundance (which, come to think of it, is yet another reason not to make it… you can never make enough to properly stock a cocktail party with more than a few guests). Buy a few bags (ice is cheap, and you’ll have saved all that money on ice molds), jam ‘em in the freezer, and relax with a delicious cocktail. And if you’re one of those people that must have pebble ice, we’re sure the local Sonic can be convinced to part with a few cups if you ask nicely.