Raise Your Ice Standards and Use These Tools for Frozen Glory
Chill out with these trays, picks, tongs, crushers, and the mother of all ice makers.
No one tells you this in premarital counseling and it gets short shrift in literary and cinematic romance, but after finances, kid-having, and possibly religion (if that's your bag), alignment on a household ice strategy is the greatest harbinger of a long-lasting and stable partnership. A dear friend's fiancé just surprised her with an Opal Nugget ice maker and while I was already heartily in support of this union, I am now completely confident that those crazy kids are gonna make it. I came to my own marriage with a robust appreciation of chilled liquids, and I was quite heartened upon initial inspection of my now-husband's freezer (I wasn't being creepy, I was making cocktails for his friends) to find all ice trays filled to a reasonable level, and myself suffused with quiet delight as he refilled them throughout the evening. Now that I think about it, my god, he even dispatched a guest to the nearby bodega to pick up an additional bag in case the supplies waned. Swoon.
As we commingled our possessions upon moving in together a year later, without even discussing it, we each decided to leave our personal ice trays in the past and move forward in frozen bliss together. Less than a year later, a solid portion of our wedding presents (awwwww!) came in the form of gift certificates to housewares stores (he and I have rather particular aesthetic tastes and people get nervous about buying things for us and that, kids, is apparently why there are registries) and I'd estimate we spent around 97.3% of that on various ice accoutrement and have supplemented that in the blessed 14 years since. Let me tell you about some of my favorites.
There's the aforementioned Opal, which I will caveat was a machine that was sent to me by First Build PR team a few years back to try out and that I offered to ship back or pay to keep and they just said nah, we're cool. I feel it's important to note that while I did not initially spend my own personal American dollars on it, I have gone on record to say that I would get rid of every other appliance in my home and cook over a candle flame if it meant that I could have cash and room enough to have one of these in my home. Ever been to a Sonic (or driven many, many miles out of your way to get to one for this precise reason) and marveled over the mega-cronchy ice? That's the stuff, and it's there at the push of a button. OK, the pouring in of water and the push of a button, because extra joy—it doesn't even need to be hooked up to a water source. It could live by your bedside or flank your couch like a faithful pet that hums and belches forth nuggets of frozen pleasure rather than, say, masticated kibble and hair. Owning this machine is the fanciest I have felt in my own home, and I'm a person with a china pattern (the whole registry thing) and a collection of bejeweled caftans.
With the ownership of this device comes the responsibility of storing and deploying its output. You may be in the habit of slurping through a couple quarts of ice in a sitting, but the rest of us will likely store a lot of it, and as ice is wont to do, the nuggets clump up. Sure, I could put them in a plastic bag and whomp that on the ground to separate them, but I'd rather use my stabber. More properly, it's an Anvil Ice Pick, but this hefty little wood and steel hammer with a long metal spike at the opposite end is a genuine pleasure to wield, chipping the whole mass apart, or just the tip of the nuggetberg. I call her Stabitha, and she's practically a family member at this point, and could likely protect us from a thirsty yeti if need be.
It is all, however, an assault on the bank account. My husband isn't just a professional ice enthusiast, he works in real estate where as it turns out, he has discovered that in the luxury apartment market, the ability and capacity to make multiple formats of ice at the touch of a button is the current bellwether of schmanciness. For the rest of us, there are ice trays and molds and whatnot.
I have dabbled in the spherical ice arts on occasion, mostly after feeling like a ninny for having spent an exorbitant amount of money at a high-end cocktail bar where I justified the price of the drink to myself by saying well of course—there's big honking Hoth in my glass, and that takes time and effort to make and store. If cash were no object and the world wasn't on fire, I might see investing in the Cocktail Kingdom Professional 55mm Black Ice Ball Maker on a whim, but that sucker costs $159.99 and I'm no pro, so I'm rather smug when I sling spheres from my Tovolo molds. A set of two 2.5-inch will set you back less than $12 and while they're not the perfectly clear, flaw-free orbs of my dreams, they're pretty spill-free and compact, and make me feel like I am worthy of nice things. At least until they melt.
Are trays more your jam? Would you care for one that's hefty and impractical, but makes you feel a strange sense of nostalgia for a past you never lived, and a sense of object permanence in a world that feels anything but? I gotchu. The Onyx Stainless Steel Ice Cube Tray is a lever-operated metal contraption that hearkens back to 1950s aesthetics and will remain functional on this planet long after its ice caps have melted and any remaining life forms will be extra in need of a man (or robot)- made frosty beverage.
On the less spiritually weighty side, I'm a sucker for all things Tovolo—in particular the King Cube Craft Ice Mold for show-off ice (my dogs are quite impressed) in four neat 2-inch units, and the more petite Perfect Cubes that yield 15 1.15-inch cubes per tray. They're available in a gazillion vibrant colors of flexible silicone, are dishwasher-safe, and thus far in my several years of ownership have never caused me any distress due to frustration from not being able to release their payload. Honestly, all I want these days is for my possessions to be emotionally neutral.
You know what's great for that? The OXO Covered Silicone Ice Cube Tray and No-Spill Ice Stick Tray. The former gives it all away in the title—a cover that acts as a barrier between you and the heartbreak of fish-scented beverages. The latter yields whimsical sticks that slip down into a narrow bottle neck or a Collins glass, and is crafted in such a way that keeps you from sloshing water onto your feet or freezer. Plus, they're made by OXO which is a company I would marry if bigamy and human-corporation nuptial were legal in my state. Oh, the chilly drinks we'd serve at the reception!
Are you angry and stressed these days and could stand to find a healthy outlet for these things besides yelling at politicians on Twitter? Perhaps the Lewis Ice Bag and Mallet Crusher is for you. There are some drinks, like juleps and daiquiris, that are perfectly delicious if you've just got regular tray ice on hand like a rube, but they're utterly transportive if they're made with a fine rubble that you'd expect to find pool or trackside. Load up the specially designed bag, envision the local or national candidate you'd most like to find unemployed in the near future, and get smashing.
If you don't have the physical or psychic energy to devote to that, you can live vicariously through the machinations of the Waring Pro IC70 Professional Stainless Steel Large-Capacity Ice Crusher. It's an industry darling for a reason, and if you have the space in your home to devote to its ownership, it may become the emotional center thereof. Seriously—both this and the Opal are utterly meditative to watch in action once you've made it to the end of all of Netflix.
I'm a feral creature who paws at salad with my hands and picks up steak bones to gnaw off the gristle, but I'm oddly prissy about touching ice, and I outsource that to these cunning little bird talon tongs when I wish to daintily pluck a cube or a few nuggs from the mass.
Ice Shot Glasses, $22 at amazon.com
But on the rare occasions that I decide to eschew utensils or vessels altogether, I channel my inner frat boy—his name is Chet— and bust out one of these ice shot glasses that I have in reserve in my freezer. The silicone mold yields four standard-sized glasses that you can then fill with whatever liquid seems most reasonable to you in the moment, and when you're finished, you can just let it melt, or pop it into another glass to chill the next beverage. Whatever you want, brah—it's cool.