Ice has become a given in cocktail culture, but there are good reasons to do without. You avoid overly diluting your drink, it’s friendlier on the environment, and you could be a forerunner in the scaffa (room-temp drink)trend. Or maybe you’re here because you simply ran out of ice. It happens. Luckily, you don’t need ice to enjoy a frosty drink. Here are a few tips on how you can make a chilly cocktail and keep it that way, all without ice.
Start with cold components
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You still haven’t warmed up to room temperature scaffa cocktails, and that’s OK. Make a cold drink by starting out with the coldest cocktail components that you can. Store mixers and syrups in the back of the fridge where the temperature consistently stays the coldest. Any citrus slices, ginger, or even herbs can stay in here too. If you want to mimic the dilution of ice in your whisky, keep some water back here as well. Keep the spirits in the freezer, and the wine, beer, and liqueurs snuggled up in the back of the fridge for at least two hours before performing any mixology.
The cup matters
Use chilled shakers and cups to build the cocktails. Pouring a sub-freezing dose of whiskey into a warm cup saps the chill away, and your cocktail is suddenly warmer even before sip number one. To hold onto the cold for as long as possible, make the vessel as chilly as you can. Put shakers, cocktail jiggers, and stirring spoons in the freezer before preparing your drink.
The cups you serve your guests with should be cold too, or even better, use double-walled insulated vessels. These are absolute heroes for keeping beverages at whatever temperature you like, hot or cold. Often double-walled insulated vessels come in the form of water bottles and tumblers, but glasses are becoming more popular too. Though, there’s something to be said about the temperature holding abilities of a thermos with a lid. I’m a fan of the Kleen Kanteen. It might not be as cute as a martini glass, but it’ll keep it cold for 145 hours.
If you’re using regular glasses, pop them in the freezer for 30 minutes before you have guests over, or use this easy technique to chill glasses in just a few minutes. Klean Kanteens and other vacuum insulated vessels generally should not go in the freezer beforehand, or ever, because it could damage the structure. It’s insulated, so popping it in the fridge or freezer will just make the outside cold anyway.
How to build a cocktail without ice
Why shake a cocktail if there’s no ice? Shaking is a chance to aerate and mix your ingredients, and you can do this without craggy ice cubes. There is the missing factor of dilution that you get from ice cubes during a shake, but this can be accounted for with a bit of fridge-cold water. Punch recommends between 20 and 25 percent of the cocktail’s total volume as dilution. For a Campari shakerato, add the cold ingredients to the ice-cold shaker along with the calculated amount of cold water, and the spring from a cocktail strainer, or you can even buy wire ball whisks for this purpose. Shake vigorously before pouring into a chilled glass.
For a stirred cocktail, like a Manhattan or martini, make sure to use tools and ingredients that have been chilled down as much as possible. Since stirred drinks are spirit-forward, those should all have spent time in the freezer. In a chilled glass or insulated thermos, add all of the ingredients including the calculated amount of cold water to account for the missing ice. Gently stir to combine. If you’re not quite ready to serve the drink, you can pour it into a bottle and store the whole bottle in the freezer.
For any cocktails that include juices or sodas, like a Moscow mule or Mai Tai, use chilled glasses and components like before, and build the cocktail with the freezer-cold alcoholic ingredients going in first. Stir in the non-carbonated mixers in next and top the drink off with any fizzy ingredients. Give it a gentle stir and serve.
Batch your cocktails
If you’re throwing a party or even just a small friendly gathering, and you know you’ll be making a large quantity of a particular brew, you can batch and chill it. Not only helpful for making your night easier, but you can rest assured that the drinks won’t begin heating up while you mix, shake, or stir. Depending on the cocktail and its alcohol content, you can batch and keep it in the fridge or keep it in the freezer.
For decidedly boozy cocktails, where all of the components are alcohol and not water-based ingredients like juices, you can store them in the freezer and keep them there for optimal chill. Simply build the cocktail as usual, complete with all of the boozy components, and pour it straight into a bottle or container, then stick it in the freezer. The high alcohol content (about 40% or higher) will prevent the cocktail from becoming slushy. Highly alcoholic drinks like martinis, Sazeracs, and Negronis can live in the freezer, and be poured from there. Just don’t forget to dilute the drink to account for the missing ice.
Since you’re aiming for somewhere between 20 and 25 percent of the cocktail’s total volume as dilution, be aware that you might have to adjust your freezer’s temperature to ensure the mix doesn’t start getting slushy with the added water. If that seems unreasonable to you, calculate the amount of fridge-cold water needed and keep it chilled until just before your guests arrive. Then mix it into the batch just before the party starts. You can keep the batched cocktail in the fridge from here on out, so it doesn’t freeze.
Keep cocktail batches that contain a higher content of mixers, like juices, shrubs, syrups, or other components that might freeze, in the fridge too, so you don’t discover your beverage has frozen solid an hour into your party. Then decant into the nearest double-walled cup. Sure, you may not look cool with an ice cold old-fashioned in an aluminum insulated thermos, but your ice-less drink will be hella chill.