Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: Arctic Chill Slow Melting Ice Spheres

Among the various trends and techniques that one can find in serious cocktail bars as of the past few years is the use of ice balls.  As opposed to having ice cubes in one's drink, a single large sphere of ice behaves much differently.  The geometric shape of the sphere offers the least amount of surface area for any given object's mass, thereby limiting an ice ball's ability to melt much more than cubed ice.

Dilution is, of course, necessary in almost all cocktails to mellow and marry constituent flavors, and limiting this dilution is not always welcome in drinks that call for ice in the glass.  Because of this, the ice ball isn't appropriate for all drinks, but most clever folks would tell you that ice balls are most useful in strong, spirituous drinks, the easiest example of which is the Old Fashioned.  They are also good for slowly diluting hard spirits while sipping them in the glass.

Having such ice spheres for use in your home bar used to be quite difficult.  I've seen various ways to fashion them manually; here is a post by Erik Ellestad showing video of how one can whittle a large cube of ice into a sphere.  As an aside, his post was a response to the public outcry (mine included) to his cocktail video in which he demonstrates his terrifying technique of slapping cubes of ice with a chef's knife in his bare hand.

Some of the first contraptions available to make round ice at home were devices that ingeniously melted large ice cubes into spheres.  But since then, simpler and cheaper designs have become available.

Arctic Chill is a new company making barware, and they've asked me to review their Slow Melting Ice Spheres molds.  Luckily, I am also the owner of a competing product from Tovolo, and so I feel I can offer a fair review.

Arctic Chill's product is simple and easy to use.  With the set, you get 4 food safe silicon molds, which break into two pieces, and they have a flat heavy bottom for stability in the freezer.  Filling the mold is as easy as securing the two pieces of the mold together and pouring water through the hole in the top until it's full.

The aforementioned minimal surface area of the spherical molds(along with how silicon is an excellent insulator) mean that the ice inside takes a long time to freeze, upwards of 6 hours.  Once it's frozen, one simply need separate the flexible mold to remove the ice.  Be sure to place the ice in the glass before your pour your drink over it, otherwise you'll be splashed by booze, as I have been several times.  What drink did I use it in, picture below? An Improved Gin Cocktail, of course.

Do I have any complaints?

Yes.  The uber-simple construction of this product's design is such that it doesn't take much force to separate the mold.  In this case, the expansion of water into ice is strong enough to separate it.  The result is that some of the water can seep out of the mold's seam as it freezes, and you're left with a raised "belt" around your ice ball.  This is not a major complaint, as it's easy to knock off the raised ice to make the ball completely round.

How does Arctic Chill compare to a competitor?

The other ice ball molds that I own are from Tovolo.  It is a similar, but more complex, design.  Namely, its mold is more secure, and it remains sound during the freezing process so that your ice ball comes out perfect every time.

Arctic Chill's pricing is just a bit cheaper than Tovolo.  It's hard for me to recommend one over the other, but if you enjoy minimalist product design or like things that take up minimal space when stored, Arctic Chill is the product for you.

Additionally, as I type this, Amazon has Arctic Chill on sale for $17 per set.  That kind of value can't be beaten.  Overall, Arctic Chill should be lauded for this product.