By Justine Sterling. Photo © Christopher Onstott
We are in a golden age of ice. Bartenders are hand-carving it into crystal-clear cubes, they’re molding it into drink-specific shapes, and now they’ve found a way to make ice that does more than just cool a cocktail down. Here, Justin Siemer of Portland, Oregon’s Ración, shares tips on five easy-to-make flavored ices.
How to make it: For a refreshing, herbaceous snow, Siemer makes a lemon–mint simple syrup with a 4:1 water-to-sugar ratio, pours it into a hotel pan and freezes it. Ever hour or so he scrapes it with a fork, until the mixture is fluffy and frozen.
How to use it: Siemer serves it alongside a shot of bourbon for a DIY mint julep (without any bitter bits of mint leaves). Simply scoop the ice into a glass, pour in the bourbon shot and enjoy.
How to make it: Seed and juice a selection of bell and serrano peppers. Pour the juice into ice trays (Siemer prefers Tovolo’s silicone Perfect Cube trays) and freeze.
How to use it: Siemer uses one large cube in Ración’s Vodka Smash: Vodka, ginger shrub (a mix of fresh ginger and cider vinegar that is macerated, strained, heated with sugar and chilled), simple syrup and lime juice, shaken and poured over the ice, and topped with soda water.
Orange Bitters Ice
How to make it: Fill an ice cube tray with water. Using a dropper, add 10 drops of orange bitters (Siemer likes Regan’s) and five drops of Angostura bitters (these give the cubes some color and a nice spice). For marbled cubes, stir each cube before freezing it. If you don’t, the bitters will sink to the bottom, which is also striking.
How to use it: Siemer plays on the classic pairing of orange and thyme in his Thyme Capsule. It’s a carbonated, bottled cocktail made with gin, green Chartreuse, simple syrup, lime juice, water and fresh thyme. To serve it, he fills a glass with one of the bitters cubes and three regular ice cubes, pops the bottle and pours in the cocktail.
How to make it: In a Vitamix (or other food processor), blend watermelon chunks to a uniform consistency. Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.
How to use it: For an ultra-refreshing cocktail, Siemer mixes Campari with fresh lemon juice and honey syrup. He pours the drink over one large watermelon ice cube and tops with a dry cider (right now he is using Square Mile’s Spur & Vine Hopped cider). As the watermelon melts into the drink, it will not only release its fruity juice but also bits of pulp, for a deliciously evolving cocktail.
How to make it: Siemer smokes his ice with a smoking gun, but home bartenders can make it by putting a sheet pan of water into a stovetop smoker or a charcoal grill. Use soaked wood chips like apple or cherry. After about 10 to 30 minutes (depending on how smoky you want your ice), pour the smoke-infused water into an ice tray and freeze.
How to use it: The smoky ice is perfect in Siemer’s take on a Manhattan, which he makes with rye whiskey; Perucchi, a sweet Spanish vermouth; amontillado sherry and aromatic bitters.