Ice balls have been hitting our glasses big time for a while now. Serving a drink over a perfect sphere of ice is a pretty sure way to impress, so there’s no shortage of tools and moulds that help you make one.
In Japan, where the ice spheres originate, mixologists demonstrate their skill and precision by hand-carving them.
One of them is Ryu Fujii of Bar K in Osaka
, one of the best Whisky and cocktail destinations in the city. Their shelves are lined with jaw-dropping Whisky choices and their cocktails are crafted to perfection.
We're still dreaming of their Japonism (Japanese Whisky blended with subtle bitterness of freshly brewed green tea).
Ryu confirmed our suspicions that nothing is left to chance in choosing the shape of ice to go with the drink: “For some drinks, cubes work best. Negroni for instance, because some of the aromas remain on the top surface of the cube for you to smell as you sip the drink. Ice spheres are great for Whisky and some cocktails, because they melt slower and look so pretty.”
Making an ice sphere by hand
We don’t necessarily agree with him and would actually advise you against trying this at home, but Ryu says "hand-carving an ice ball is simple."
He makes about 20 of them every day, following these five steps:
1. Start with a Big Block of Ice
Having completely clear ice without any cloudiness or cracks is crucial. At Bar K, they buy it in blocks from a local supplier. They use an ice saw (and a steady hand) to cut it into perfect cubes.
2. Carve it Into a Sphere
This is the part that requires the most practice. Ryu uses a three-prong ice pick to quickly trim the edges of the block.
After the initial shaping, which only takes him a few strokes, comes the painstaking process of shaving off every little bump to slowly get it to the perfect size and shape.
Another task to bear in mind here is keeping fingertips outside the reach of the ice pick.
The roughly shaped sphere goes back into the freezer. This very important process is almost like tempering glass, where the series of heating and cooling makes it extremely hard.
4. Final shaping
After the sphere has hardened it's ready for the final few chisels and then the last step...
Cold water is still warmer than ice, so it delicately melts away any last imperfections on the surface of the sphere and what's left is a perfectly clear, perfectly round ice ball.