The Greatest Halloween Party Trick Is Also the Most Classic: Dry Ice

Theatrical, spooky sippers, coming right up.

<p>Sean Locke Photography / Shutterstock</p>

Sean Locke Photography / Shutterstock

Last fall, I received a package full of ice cream that was boxed up with dry ice to ensure the pints stayed icy cold while en route to my Brooklyn apartment. After putting all of my little treats away in the freezer, I dumped the dry ice into my sink so I could recycle the box everything arrived in. Two hours later my roommates started asking when this tiny mountain of ice would begin to dwindle so they could wash dishes again, and I turned on the faucet in an attempt to melt the dry ice more quickly by running some water over it. Cue a mountain of fog pouring over the edges of the sink, and a vivid bubbling sound that likely convinced my landlord I was brewing a potion in our kitchen. But instead of thinking, “Maybe I should turn off this water and stop more fog from floating over my countertops,” I turned into a little kid conducting an at-home science experiment.

I kept the faucet on to see how much fog I could create, pouring hot water onto the dry ice (spoiler alert: this created even more misty clouds), and  taking videos to send in my family group chat. Besides being just plain fun, my dry ice adventure harkened back to the Halloween parties of my childhood, when my parents would throw elaborate spooky season festivities for my class.I distinctly remember my mom purchasing a big plastic cauldron and some dry ice to make a fizzy, eerie Halloween punch that was bubbling and emitting tendrils of fog all night. Suffice it to say, this was thrilling for all of us ten year olds. Playing with dry ice as an adult made me wonder why this sense of wonder and novelty had to be limited to childhood. A few weeks later, my apartment was crammed full of tipsy twenty-somethings snacking on tortilla chips and serving themselves ladles of punch from what I consider my greatest hosting centerpiece in recent years: a boozy batched cocktail packed full of dry ice for dramatic effect. This party trick will instantly make your Halloween festivities appear on-theme (even if your home is lacking in any other spooky decor), and help everyone in attendance relive their childhood memories — albeit with some alcohol involved this time around.

Related: How to Set Your Cocktails On Fire At Home Without Causing Chaos

Making a festive punch with dry ice will impress all your guests, but there are a few tips and safety guidelines that are essential to know. Most importantly,  dry ice can burn you. As the solid form of carbon monoxide, this substance is much much colder than standard ice or frozen water; This is great because it creates those signature fog and bubbles, but it means that you cannot touch dry ice with your bare hands. You should only pick it up with tongs. For this same reason, I recommend using dry ice in a large punch bowl, so that you don’t have pieces of it in everyone’s individual glasses. Conveniently, this lends itself well to purchasing one of those plastic cauldrons or pumpkins you see at Target every October!

Where to buy dry ice

It’s easy to source dry ice, and you can usually find it at  major grocery store chains, or at smaller retailers that only sell ice. I don’t recommend buying dry ice the day before your Halloween festivities because it will melt, but if you purchase the ice several hours in advance, it’ll still be in fine form for a party. Do not store your dry ice in your freezer, which isn’t cold enough to keep it from melting. When dry ice “melts”, it turns back into carbon dioxide, and the pressure of that gas can cause its container — like your freezer — to explode. Instead, keep this icy ingredient in  styrofoam or other insulated cooler, with the lid loosely closed.  If you have ice left over after your party, allow it to finish melting outside or in an open cooler instead of tossing it into a trash bag. Because dry ice releases carbon dioxide as it melts, you’ll also want to ensure it’s kept in a well ventilated space — keep a window open or brew your potion outside, and don’t store your dry ice in a closet.

These stipulations might seem like a lot, but they really boil down to two main takeaways: don’t touch your try ice with bare skin, and give it plenty of room to breathe. From there, you’re rockin’ and rollin’. Dry ice will start creating its signature fog, bubbling sounds, and carbonations from the second you submerge it in liquid. Make sure you source a great punch recipe or batch your favorite cocktail, so the flavor of your drink lives up to the drama that dry ice will give it. (Bonus points if you brew something with a holiday-appropriate color, or you can amp up a drink’s natural hue with a touch of food coloring; for example, add a little green dye to this Spicy Margarita Punch.) The beauty of a dry ice drink is that it becomes an instant centerpiece, and makes your party feel put together — even if you just texted everyone an invite the day before and forgot to buy salsa to go with the tortilla chips you’re serving them. Once all your guests are in awe of your bubbling punch bowl full of booze and the eerie fog seeping over its edges, they’ll forget that they’re in a very crowded small Brooklyn apartment, and you’ll become the coolest kid in town.

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