I’ve always been fascinated by ice. When mixing cocktails, you quickly realize that ice is a big deal. Different drinks call for different types of ice. For example, a mint julep requires a mountain of crushed ice both to account for its sweetness, and to beat the Southern heat. An old fashioned, on the other hand, is perfect with one large cube, thereby keeping it cold but while minimizing dilution. It’s okay, you can say it, I’m an ice geek. Well, not as much as these guys, but you get the idea. So it’s no surprise that when I saw ice being used both as an ingredient AND a vessel, I was eager to give it a go. Inspired by the Aviary’s Old Fashioned in The Rocks, I decided to “sphere” one of my favorites: the Negroni. Be forewarned, this DIY is tricky at best (there’s another wonderful tutorial here). Assuming you’re not using a blast chiller, and with several other variables in play, it can be difficult to get this one on your first try. But once it works out, it can be the trick that has your guests awarding you the title of happy hour legend.
- 1 oz gin
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- 1 oz Campari
- lemon twist for garnish
Start by filling your cocktail molds. I used these ice molds, which I recommend because they are easy to use, and have a perfectly sized hole in the top that you’ll need. After you fill your mold with water, put it in the freezer. If possible, place the mold on a rack so that the cold air can evenly circulate. Here’s where it can get tricky: The goal is to chill the sphere just long enough so that the outside freezes (~ 1/4 inch thick) but the inside remains liquid. In my freezer this took about 3 hours, but it will vary significantly depending on a number of factors: freezer temperature, how crowded your freezer is, if you open the freezer during the process, etc. This will no doubt take some observation, and trial and error. Just be sure to note the time it takes for future reference.
Halfway through the freezing process, at approximately 1.5 hours, carefully poke through the hole in the top of the mold, puncturing the ice. Be very gentle, as you don’t want to crack any other part of the sphere. I used the very tip of my ice pick, but you can also use a cocktail pin, or anything else thin, sharp and pointy.
Once it appears the outside of the sphere has frozen to the proper thickness, poke through the hole again, puncturing the wall of the sphere. Carefully remove the top of the mold from the sphere. If the mold is frozen shut, either let it rest for 30 seconds to warm, or run it under lukewarm water for five seconds. Again, be very careful to not pull the mold apart too quickly, or with too much force, or else you will crack your sphere. Also, holding the mold under water for too long will melt and crack your sphere. Now you can drain out the water through the hole! I turned the sphere upside down and inserted a skinny plastic straw to drain the water. An easier way to drain the water would be to use a kitchen syringe, such as a marinade injector. Simply suck out the water with the syringe and your ice sphere is ready to go! Place back in the freezer temporarily until you cocktail is ready to fill.
Now that your sphere is hollow and ready to go, it’s time to get started on the cocktail. Simply add the gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari to your mixing glass, fill with ice, and stir for 30 seconds.
Remove the sphere from the mold if you haven’t already done so. VERY carefully place into your rocks glass. Do not drop into the bottom of the glass (easier said than done). It helps to tilt the glass sideways and slowly lower the sphere down the side of the glass until it gently touches the bottom. Remember to have the hole facing up. Now you can fill the sphere with your cocktail!! If you used the syringe to drain, you can use it to fill the sphere with the cocktail as well. Instead, I delicately strained the cocktail into the sphere directly through the hole, but this was a bit more precarious. Note: at this point if the walls of your sphere are too thin, or your cocktail too warm, it might melt through the bottom when filling.
Assuming everything worked out for you, your cocktail sphere is now complete. Hooray!! Your guests (or in my case, my dog) will be wowed and maybe even snap an Instagram.
And now for the best part . . . destruction!! Use a muddler, the back of a spoon, or even a mini axe to crack open your sphere. Instantly, a negroni on the rocks!
Congratulations, you deserve it.
(images by HonestlyYUM)