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The Complete Guide to Ice Spheres

Of all the recent cocktail trends, ice spheres are the most ubiquitous. Originating at high end whiskey bars in Japan, moving their way to American speakeasies and finally into big box stores, these chilly orbs have made their way into the every day. Get acquainted with Shard’s complete guide to the ice sphere.

The History

Hidetsugu Ueno by Ciprian Tutu

While the exact origin of the ice sphere is unclear, there is consensus that the craft originated in Japan. In Japan, cocktails arose in popularity sometime in the early 1900s, perhaps tagging along with an influx of Western culture. It was there that mixing cocktails was infused with respect for ritual, balance and aesthetic. All three qualities are reflected in the creation and presentation of the ice sphere.

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Cocktail Techniques by Kazuo Uyeda

“Cocktail Techniques” by renowned Japanese bartender Kazuo Uyeda, published in 2000, includes instructions on how to carve an ice sphere. This text predates all Google search records of ice sphere by approximately 7 years, seen below. Uyeda owns and operates Tender Bar in Tokyo. On the right, is a photo of Hidetsugu Ueno, another world class bartender shows off hand carved ice at his bar Bar High Five in Tokyo.

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Google Trends for Ice Sphere

The timing of the Google’s search trend for "ice sphere" appears to point to the below post by Angus Winchester as the first video of ice ball carving on YouTube. Many ice ball articles that followed in 2007 and 2008 reference Angus’ video. Today a YouTube search for ice sphere pulls up over 167,000 results.

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Earliest Ice Sphere Video

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The Science

Cube and Sphere

Does the shape make any difference? Well, in fact it does! Compared to cubes or large chunks of ice, the surface area to volume ratio of a sphere is optimal for maximum chill with minimal melt or dilution. The difference may be hard to distinguish, but proves itself in tests.

Whether the ice is cloudy or clear makes a difference too. Clear ice's higher density slows melting, and with fewer impurities will leave no freezer aftertaste. Altogether, there are some brains behind this beauty.

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When to Use

Shard Old Fashioned with Ice Sphere

Ice spheres are best suited to drinks that need to be cold but not diluted. Typically this includes straight liquor or few-ingredient cocktails like the Negroni and Old Fashioned. Ice Balls would look great in a soda or iced coffee too! No more water-coffee at the end of the morning.

Ice spheres are most often used with rocks, old fashioned, or perhaps stemless cocktail glasses.

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How to Make

The increasing popularity of the ice sphere has led to a number of different ways to create one; from the traditional hand carved to the Macgyver’ed water balloon. Here we’ll outline the most reliable methods for creating an ice sphere.

Ice Press

An ice block is compressed between two metal hemisphere molds with high thermal conductivity. Aluminum is a common choice, though for your local Midas there are gold ones as well. As gravity pulls the top piece downward, it presses the ice block into a perfect ice sphere. Excess melt water must be soaked up as it will drain from the press during use. Ice presses are the best solution for creating a pristine ice sphere.

Bevratech Sphere Ice Press GIF

Ice Mold 

Often silicone, molds in the shape of spheres can be filled with tap water and placed in a normal freezer. The quality of the ball will depend on the quality of the mold. Some molds can leave ridges on the spheres at the seams, and if not filled properly will not freeze into a complete sphere. Ice molds are often unreliable, but by far the easiest way to create ice spheres

Whiskey Ball Ice Mold


Hand Carved 

The most traditional way to create an ice sphere is to hand carve it out of an ice block using an ice prong. The corners of the ice block are chipped away until what’s left is a spherical shape. Hand carving an ice sphere is dangerous and creates quite a mess of scattered ice. While it does require more effort, the result is an unforgettable, personal presentation from start to finish.

Shard Hand Carved Ice Ball

Comments

If you have further information or links on ice spheres, please shoot us an email at info@shard-ice.com!