It sounds impossible given that ice is frozen, and smoking involves heat, but the process of getting smoke flavor and aroma into a chunk of ice is not that difficult if you recognize that this is just a play on words. And if you are familiar with barbecue or have access to a smoker or grill, well, this is absolutely no problem. What we are really doing here is making smoked water using whatever food smoking process is available to melt ice. Once the warm smoke has done its job, the resulting liquid is simply refrozen. Voila—smoked ice.
We could stop right there and many readers will already have enough to get started, but you are probably wondering: why would you want to do this? Simple: we want to make the Smoke Signals cocktail by Evan Zimmerman, of course! Actually, you could use smoked ice with Bacon Bourbon or any cocktail that might benefit from this rustic twist. In our case, we are finishing a decade-long quest to finally make Zimmerman’s drink at home, and we think it is totally worth it.
Ice chunks are easy. Just put a loaf pan filled with water into the freezer. Once frozen, pull it out, let it temper for a half hour on the counter, then tip the block out of the pan and split it into chunks. Wrap them in plastic for storage in the freezer again. That’s the easy part, and it doesn’t even have to be clear (it can’t be with smoke added). But how do you add the smoke? We can think of several methods.
If you have a smoker, use it to melt ice. Put a loaf pan full of ice cubes into the smoker with some hickory or pecan wood. Let the smoke melt the ice, remove the pan, freeze the water and Bob’s your uncle. Of course, not everyone has access to a smoker, but you could use a grill. Wrap wood chips in aluminum foil, poke some holes, and put this on your grill. When the chips start to smolder, put in your pan of ice. Don’t put the pan over the flames—let the heat from the smoke melt the ice indirectly.
A third method involves the foil bag again, only this time you put it into the bottom of a boiling pot like a cast iron Dutch oven with a lid. Heat it on a stove that is well ventilated or use an outdoor burner. Once it starts to smoke, set your pan of ice on top and close the lid.
Finally, you can take the shortcut (which is what we did) and use a PolyScience Smoking Gun or similar molecular gastronomy device. Put some tiny wood shavings into the screened holder and light this on fire. Turn on the Smoking Gun and an electric fan will draw air over the wood embers and push the smoke out a tube. Run this tube into a bottle with a little water until the bottle is filled with smoke. Then, cork the bottle and shake the water. It will grab the smoke particles, capturing them in the water. Once the smoke clears, you have smokey water. Do this a few times to intensify the smoke flavor. Freeze it and you have smoked ice.