By Veronica Meewes
Updated December 18, 2014
Credit: © Christian Seel

Large orbs of botanicals, fresh juices, herbs, bitters and alcohol melting slowly into a cocktail that changes with every sip—welcome to the world of spherical cocktails. While more and more bars have been curating ice programs to complement their cocktails with particular cuts of ice, select bartenders are getting increasingly experimental with the contents of their frozen shapes. This new technique is like an everlasting Gobstopper of a cocktail that slowly changes as you sip. These three bars are the game-changers when it comes to spherical ice cocktails.

The Aviary in Chicago was one of the first to serve drinks “in the rocks” instead of on the rocks. Knob Creek bourbon, Carpano Antica and Campari are injected into a hollow sphere made of frozen water and Peychaud’s bitters, then served in a glass accompanied by a tiny slingshot. The slingshot shatters the ice, the lemon is squeezed and then the reconstructed Boulevardier is ready for consumption.

The Aviary's Boulevardier "In the Rocks", Photo © Christian Seel

At Swift’s Attic in Austin, bar manager Jeff Hammett has created an entire ice ball menu. His spheres contain fruits, zests, spices and liqueurs, topped with only a single accompanying spirit. “At first, as you can imagine, they start off a bit boozy,” Hammett says. “But as the ball melts, the more intricate flavors sneak out.”

A sphere from Swift's Attic. Photo © Natalie Paramore

The Apple Turnover ice sphere is packed with Granny Smith apples, clove, cardamom, ginger syrup and spiced liqueur, then topped with Mount Gay Extra Old. The Stage Name’s sphere contains housemade sage syrup and lavender bitters, with Waterloo Barrel Reserve gin as the starring spirit.

At Orlando's Highball & Harvest, many of their cocktails use herbs and fruits grown on-site at Whisper Creek Farm. Though the bartenders use a Japanese ice saw to carve down 300-pound blocks of ice behind the bar, the ingredients in their ice ball cocktails are fairly straightforward.

The Kentucky Lavendula features Woodford Reserve infused with spiced honey and fresh lavender, Angostura bitters, lemon juice and honey syrup served over a Scotch-rinsed cinnamon ice sphere. Last Wish uses a sphere enhanced with orange peel, which pairs well with High West Campfire Whiskey, spiced cola syrup, Old Havana Tobacco Bitters and orange essence.

“The ice sphere with the orange peel inside allows for the citrus oils to stay trapped within the sphere,” says assistant manager Samantha Jefferis. “As it melts, it changes the texture of the drink as well as the aromatics of the entire cocktail.”

Highball & Harvest's "Last Wish", Photo ©The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes

If all that sounds good to you, you can get into the spherical cocktail game at home. Although there are some seriously fancy ice ball press kits out there, you can make them easily and inexpensively with a set of silicone molds like the ones made by Tovolo.

We recommend giving it a try this season. A round of spherical cocktails during a holiday dinner is guaranteed to impress your friends and confuse the heck out of your in-laws.