Whether it's a glistening, sweaty glass of Coca-Cola or a giant cup of iced coffee, there's nothing more refreshing than an ice-cold drink — regardless of the temperature outside. American culture has a particular affinity towards beverages chilled with ice cubes. Our love affair with ice began in the early 1800s when it was harvested from frozen ponds, making it a luxury afforded only to the very wealthy. Today, ice is far more accessible. It can be found anywhere from your freezer to your local 7-Eleven, making it the go-to for most people wishing to quickly and effectively chill their beverages.
But while ice cubes have become ubiquitous, they're not always reliable. On a hot day, for example, ice tends to jump the shark pretty quickly, taking the flavor of your beverage down with it. There's nothing chill about reaching for your sweaty glass of Coca-Cola only to find yourself gulping back lukewarm, Coke-flavored water. Luckily, there are some alternatives to ice cubes that will keep your beverage chilled without diluting them.
Cool Things Down With Reusable Ice Cubes
In the words of one Vanilla Ice, "ice is back with a brand new invention." Was he talking about reusable ice cubes? No. But reusable ice cubes are a convenient substitute for ice cubes that won't melt in your drink. These are often made of plastic, which can come in a slew of fun colors to liven up your next party (but try to stick to BPA-free plastics and avoid silica gel-based cubes which come with a risk of leakage). They also may be made of stone (i.e. "whiskey stones"), to class up your at-home cocktails, or even stainless steel, for those who prefer their drinks with a steampunk twist.
As a bonus, reusable ice cubes use less water and are more eco-friendly (those made of stone or steel are ideal for minimizing your carbon footprint). They're also designed to freeze quickly, so once the water inside them melts (or the stone or steel becomes room temperature), you can pop them in your freezer and they'll be re-frozen in a jiff. Another bonus to reusable ice cubes is, unlike the old-fashioned kind, they won't make your drink taste like the inside of your freezer.
Make Ice Cubes Out Of The Beverage You're Drinking
Don't throw out your ice trays just yet. Instead, try filling them with iced coffee. As your iced coffee cubes melt, your drink will taste even more like coffee, instead of less. This coffee hack is also a great way to use your leftover cold brew so it doesn't go to waste. And it can save you time in the morning: fill your glass to the top with these caffeinated cubes and douse it in cold milk for an iced latte to-go. Or, for the coffee purists, pop these in your iced coffee for a fast and frosty morning (or afternoon) buzz.
You can use this hack with pretty much any beverage. Try freezing lemonade and popping the cubes in iced tea for a quick Arnold Palmer. Make family-friendly fruit juice cubes out of apple, orange, or any kind of fruit juice (a clever trick to get kids to hydrate all year round). And for the grown-ups, frozen wine cubes can help you avoid the faux pas of serving warm or watered-down wine at your next summer barbecue. However, keep in mind that not all drinks freeze equally. One of the biggest mistakes people make with ice cubes is trying to freeze sugary drinks, alcohol, and carbonated beverages, which can form soft, watery cubes, or may not freeze at all. Try using trays with smaller cubes to boost your chances of achieving the perfect non-H2O cube.
Add Frozen Lemon Or Lime Wedges
For an ice substitute that will give your drink a tangy kick, try popping a bunch of lemon or lime wedges in the freezer. This ingenious tip for an ice cube alternative was recommended by none other than Gordon Ramsay, so you know it's legit. And it's particularly handy for any beverage that would benefit from a little citrus — like cocktails, iced tea, or Diet Coke.
Don't want your drink to taste citrusy? There's no need to limit yourself to lemons and limes. All kinds of fruit can be frozen and used as an ice substitute. Try adding frozen strawberries or blueberries to a pitcher of lemonade to liven up the flavor. Pop some frozen watermelon in a big glass of watermelon juice. Or try putting some frozen grapes in a glass of chardonnay. As a bonus, once you finish your drink, you'll find a delicious treat at the bottom of your glass. You deserve that.
Freeze Lemon Or Fruit Juice
If you don't have any lemons or limes on hand, freezing lemon juice in ice cube trays is another easy ice substitute you can try. These citrus cubes contain H2O so they will eventually melt — but at least they won't water down your drink in the process. Instead, they'll zhuzh it up with a burst of citrus flavor. For those of you who like to enhance your everyday water for maximum hydration and health benefits, try keeping frozen lemon or lime juice cubes in the freezer. This will save you the hassle of having to slice up fresh citrus every time you're thirsty.
And again, there's no need to limit yourself to lemon or lime. You can make your own flavored seltzer by adding any kind of frozen fruit juice to plain sparkling water. Or turn regular orange juice into fruit punch by adding cubes of frozen cranberry or pineapple juice.
Get Creamy By Freezing Milk Or Cream
For blended beverage fans, this ice cube tray milk hack is a great way to make creamy smoothies that aren't watered down. Simply pour your chosen dairy beverage or milk substitute into an ice cube tray and freeze it. Then, use these milk (or dairy-free) cubes in place of ice in your blender when making your morning smoothie. Eliminating water-based ice from your smoothies will enhance the flavor and make for a creamier, thicker texture.
Frozen milk cubes are also the perfect thing to have on hand if you're an iced coffee drinker. Toss them straight into your cold brew, or add both to a blender to make your own Frappuccino. An added benefit is that frozen dairy has a much longer shelf life — three to six months — compared to milk in your fridge. So frozen milk cubes are a dependable, less wasteful way to keep dairy on hand for your coffee or smoothies.
Add Ice Cream Or Frozen Yogurt
A root beer float is a perfect dessert. No notes. But why should it corner the market on ice cream-infused beverages? Adding ice cream, frozen yogurt, or sorbet is a delicious way to enhance a whole range of drinks — it's also an ice substitute that you may already have in your freezer. Of course, ice cream is prone to melting. But unlike ice, it will make your drink taste exponentially more delicious as it breaks down.
Try adding a little chocolate ice cream to your cold brew to make a chilled mocha latte. Infuse a touch of sweetness and flavor into your glass of seltzer with a scoop of sorbet. Or transform your after-dinner drink into dessert by adding ice cream to your cocktail. Keep in mind that not all flavors yield tasty results when mixing frozen dairy and booze, but you can't go wrong by adding a scoop of butter pecan ice cream to your spiced apple cider cocktail, or some coconut frozen yogurt to your Malibu rum.
Make An Ice Block Out Of A Plastic Bag
This isn't the most elegant item on this list, but it works — especially if you want to keep a large batch of cocktails chilled for a party. Make your own supersize reusable ice cube by filling a clean, unused plastic ziplock baggie or regular plastic bag about ⅔ full with water. Make sure not to overfill it, as the water will expand when it freezes.
This chunk of ice will take longer to melt than a bunch of individual ice cubes. You can either use it in a cooler in place of an ice pack or place it directly in a pitcher of your cocktail or other large-batch beverage. Of course, it will melt eventually, but at no cost to the potency of your drink. As an added bonus, it's always good to have a big baggy of ice in your freezer in case of a power outage. Who knows? It just might save your perishables.
Try The Frozen Towel Method
What happens when you're hosting a dinner party and a well-intentioned guest shows up with a bottle of room-temperature white wine? Most white wine drinkers prefer to enjoy it chilled, but adding ice to wine is not for everyone (and many consider it a heresy). Of course, sticking the whole bottle in the freezer is a classic trick — as long as you remember to take the bottle out before it explodes. But this process can take a while.
For this scenario or any other where you find yourself with a bottled beverage that needs to be chilled in a hurry, you can try Giada De Laurentiis' trick to chill cocktails quickly without watering them down. First, soak a paper towel or cotton hand towel in water, then wrap it around the bottle, and stick it in the fridge. According to the Italian chef, this efficient trick will chill the bottle in as little as 10 minutes. Luxury problem solved.
Consider Dry Ice (But Be Careful)
Dry ice is often associated with Halloween parties because of its eerie, smoke-like nature, but this spooky substance is versatile, accessible, and a great way to make cocktail magic. It's also very dangerous: At negative 109 degrees, dry ice can burn your skin on contact. And you definitely do not want to consume it. So with all of these risks, why would you put dry ice in your drink? Because, if handled safely, dry ice is one of the fastest ways to chill a drink, and it's by far the most punk rock.
If you're feeling bold and decide to use dry ice in your cocktails or drinks, make sure to do your research and take all of the necessary precautions. Always handle it with thick, non-latex gloves, and serve it in a mesh tea strainer topped with regular ice to protect the safety of the drinker. And when you're done with it, you should never put leftover dry ice in the sink — instead, dispose of it safely by letting it sublimate in a well-ventilated area. No cocktail is worth exploding your house over.
Invest In Insulated Drinkware
There are a bunch of insulated drinkware options on the market that are designed to preserve the cool temperature of your drink. On the higher end, some glass-lined tumblers look like a to-go coffee mug, but it's designed for cocktails and can keep them cold for hours. For a more affordable option, countless insulated tumblers on the market are also double-walled for temperature preservation and come in a slew of vibrant colors.
For beverages that aren't already cold, you can also purchase drinkware that will chill your drink as well as insulate it, like freezable beer glasses or frosty freezer ice mugs. They are insulated with cooling packs or silicone so you can pop them in your freezer for four hours, and ooh ah la: A glass that will both chill your drink and keep it that way, without watering it down.
Turn Jell-O Into Ice
Frozen Jell-O had its viral moment a few years ago when it was all over TikTok, fascinating people with its unique "fish-like" texture and the ASMR-friendly sound it makes when you crunch into it. But beyond its ability to hold the attention of Gen-Z for a full week, frozen Jell-O has another trick up its sleeve: It can keep your drink cool, while also adding both color and flavor. Okay, that's three tricks.
To make your "Jell-O ice," prepare the gelatin as you normally would, but reduce the water somewhat to allow for expansion when it freezes. Pour the concoction into an ice tray and, once it has cooled and hardened, stick it in your freezer for 1-2 hours (too long and it can lose its magical texture). As it thaws, frozen Jell-O won't "melt" per se, but it will infuse your drink with flavor and color. It will also leave a puddle of sweet, jelly-like goo at the bottom of your glass, making it an ideal ice substitute for a kids' party (but maybe not for an upscale garden party). Get creative with the rainbow of color options by mixing red, white, and blue cubes with hard (or regular) seltzer at your next 4th of July barbecue, or making orange Jell-O cubes on Halloween.
Chill Your Glassware
Many mixologists and others who take their cocktail game seriously would say that you need to chill your glassware before making cocktails. This may require a little advanced planning, but it's a simple way to both chill your drink and keep it cool longer without diluting it with ice. The best way to chill your glasses is to place them upright in the freezer for thirty minutes to an hour, or longer. This method will avoid condensation forming inside or outside the glass — plus, a frosted glass significantly boosts the elegance factor of your cocktail-drinking experience.
If you're in a rush, you can use the classic bartender method: Fill your glasses with crushed ice, and top it off with a little seltzer to accelerate the chilling process. Let the ice sit for a few minutes before dumping it out and then pouring your cocktails into these now-chill glasses. We'll drink to that.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.