Ready to get your home cocktail program in shape for the holiday entertaining season?
Trick question: Nobody should say "cocktail program." About anything. Ever.
Skip complicated instructional videos about Japanese shaking techniques (who cares?). Don't try to grow an artisanal mixologist-style handlebar moustache. (There's no time! Also: some of you are ladies!)
Let's focus on what's really important: ice. Ice doesn't just keep a drink cool. It melts and dilutes the alcohol and is the alchemy by which basic booze and mere mixers become a proper, well-balanced cocktail.
"Ice is to a bartender like fire is to a chef," says Benjamin Wood, beverage director at Distilled in Tribeca. "Clarity is key!" Wood says. Look for ice without a lot of air bubbles, and if you're making the stuff at home (which you should be), Wood suggests using silicone ice forms like this set from Tovolo (see below).
Andrew Abrahamson of Seven Grand Whiskey Bar in L.A. likes to go free-form: "Fill a stainless steel bowl with water and you've got one big 'cube' on hand at all times to chip to fit any glass." The catch: You'll need an ice pick and some practice. To get you started we picked and chipped our way through the world of ice formers and crackers to help you find the coolest gear.
"Schmallet" wooden mallet and Lewis bag| Four pack of silicone ice ball molds
"Schmallet" Wooden Ice Mallet ($15) and Lewis Bag ($4): Unload holiday stress and get your ice shards in order by crushing ice with this dynamic duo.
Muji Silicone Ice Ball Maker ($25): Stock up on ice spheres with this dishwasher-safe silicone ice mold four-pack, a cheaper alternative to the aluminum kind.
Highball ice mold | Ice cube tray
Highball Ice Molds ($13): Chill your Gimlet with these stout cylindrical cubes shaped from BPA-free plastic.
CB2 Ice Cube Tray ($7): Make colossal 2-inch ice cubes and add a little zip of color to your freezer with this silicone four-pack.
Collins ice molds | Ice cracker
Collins Ice Mold ($7): Food-quality rubber makes popping out these rectangular ices a breeze and your gin and tonic cooler longer.
Chef'n Ice Cracker ($15): Chip shards, pebbles and chunks off the old block with this flexible plastic wand fitted with a stainless steel head.
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