It seems like an old story now. When the pandemic hit, we all found new hobbies: baking sourdough, catching up on books we wanted to read, DIY projects around the house, jigsaw puzzles, you name it. Personally, I got into ice.
I enjoy making cocktails at home and wanted to up my game. I experimented with different shapes and sizes trying to find what worked best for particular cocktails. I’d long been using 1” cubes from silicone molds for stirred cocktails. They melt slower than the little half moons the ice maker in my refrigerator spits out, so I can control the dilution. I use a 2” cube for shaken cocktails to provide better aeration and texture. I used silicone sphere molds, though often they came out more egg-shaped. I made large-format ice by filling a small cooler and placing it in the chest freezer for days.
While looking through the wide variety of ice tools, I often came across the ice press. Ice presses are made of two heavy sections of a heat conductive metal with a sphere-shaped cutout between the two and rails that guide them together. Basically, you put a large ice cube between the two sections and through the combined efforts of conduction and gravity, the ice melts into a sphere. Ice presses also tend to be rather expensive; they start around $150 and a certain home goods store sells one for over $1200.
The Bar & Craft Ice Ball Press is $269.99 and comes in a lovely wooden presentation box and includes the press, an ice tray, a draining mat, and tongs. The ice tray yields four 2½-inch cubes. You put the rail-sided piece on the draining mat, put one cube in the center of the press, put the top on, and the gravity and conduction do the rest. It takes about a minute to turn the cube into a 2-inch ball.
I have a couple issues here. Because it works through conduction, you need to first warm it up with hot water, otherwise the press gets too cold and stalls before it finishes. This is fine if you’re making one sphere, but if you’re making a round of drinks for four, you have to warm it up again between spheres. It took me about 12 minutes and 12 liters of hot water to make 4 spheres. I’d recommend making a bunch in advance and storing them in freezer bags. If you’re looking to make a show of it, you can make one in the press and have pre-made spheres ready to go.
While a perfect sphere is nice, I find that the clarity of the ice is more important to me than the specific shape. Clear ice melts slower because it contains less air. This is not a knock on the Bar & Craft Ice Ball Press, but rather all ice ball presses. If you start with cloudy ice, you get a cloudy ball. With an ice ball mold and a small thermos, I can make a clear spheroid (it’s usually slightly egg-shaped) and the tools cost a fraction of an ice press.
To me, the appeal of an ice ball press is to impress your guests. It's not something I'm going to use regularly, but I can imagine saying, "Hey watch this," to a few friends. If the shape and a show is important to you, the Bar & Craft Ice Ball Press is relatively well-priced compared to other presses on the market. For me, clarity remains king.
Disclaimer: Bar & Craft provided Bourbon & Banter with a sample of their product for this review. We appreciate their willingness to allow us to review their products with no strings attached. Thank you.