Well, we had our first real snowfall here in the Twin Cities today, so I figured what better time to say a few things about ice. I have written before about the importance of using proper ice in cocktails. Whether you are making a recipe that calls for crushed ice or one that requires solid cubes for shaking, using the right ice for the job is more important than most people realize. You can read all about that here, so let’s move on and explore the idea of the ice shard.
In addition to just serving drinks on the rocks, sometimes a recipe works nicely with a huge chunk that almost fills the glass. Ice spheres are great for this. Their large mass keeps everything cold, and the low surface area keeps the ice from melting. But what about tall and skinny Collins style drinks? You can’t exactly fit a sphere into a narrow glass, so the typical solution is to stack four or five cubes. That works fine, but eventually, they start to melt, and as they do, they shed water into the drink.
In days gone by, ice came in huge slabs and everything was hand chipped. Back then, you would score a narrow chunk and crack it off the slab so it fits nicely in your taller glassware. Better bars still do it the same way, but recently, I read about a simple technique you can use to make the shards as easily as any other ice cubes.
It’s no secret that the mixology community loves Tovolo ice cube trays. The silicone molds make perfectly-sized cubes for shaking and rocks drinks, and until now, they were the same cubes I used in tall glasses. The trick to getting perfect shards is to modify one of your Tovolo trays.
The proper length for my Collins glasses is about 4 cubes. Take a sharp razor blade or X-acto knife and carefully cut the silicone dividing walls of your tray to join four cube compartments into a single rectangle. This can be tricky, so take your time. The corners are the hard part, but you can bend the rest of the tray around so you can get in there nicely and trim the walls down flat. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Using a four-cube layout, you can get three shards out of one tray. I chose to keep opposing single cubes intact in a staggered pattern for stability. Once you have your tray ready, you can make ice, but the first couple of shards that you make will probably have tiny bits of silicone in them from your cutting. Just discard these shards and try again.
I like to store my shards in plastic wrap until needed to keep them from taking on any smells in the freezer. When you use them, slip them into your glass carefully (they are big) and watch your guests gasp in amazement at your mastery of frozen water!