Swanky scotch and whiskey bars spend a fare amount of time (and money) on atmosphere and presentation – how else can they charge $20 for a $4 drink ?!
The glass is only part of the presentation and it’s easy to replicate at home. The ice is another story.
The first task is to create clear ice. There are a number of methods described on the internet and the one that proved successful was directional freezing, detailed by Camper English. I just had to call him out for having such a cool name.
Using an inexpensive cooler, fill it with nothing more than tap water (or filtered water if your tap water is funky). Put it in the freezer with the top removed or open. Wait about 48 hours. In this time it will freeze down about 4". Remove the cooler from the freezer and let it sit on the counter for about 10 minutes then invert it in your sink and slowly, the block will fall out. It will still have an unfrozen portion. Knock this off to leave you with a block of clear ice. If you want chunks, break off pieces as needed.
To get a sphere of ice, you want to start with a more manageable piece. I tried carefully breaking the block but it was very unreliable and wasteful.
I took six 1-liter bottles and cut off the top and bottom. I drop these into the cooler filled with water before it goes into the freezer. After 48 hours, I remove the cooler as before and let it sit. Then, I break the block apart to free the cylinders. Each piece is about 4" tall as before.
Note: the one pictured has a small amount of front on it because I had tossed it back in the freezer for later use. If you do this, let it sit out for about 10 minutes to temper, otherwise even the temperature of your hand will shock the ice and crack it.
From "cylinder to sphere" you have two options, you can shape it by hand or using a press. Both methods take advantage of thermodynamics.
Hand Method: There are two manual options – melting and chiseling. Here is the chisel method. I tried my hand at the melt method. Using a large stone or thick metal surface, slide the ice cylinder across its face/top. The surface – being at room temperature – melts the ice. It’s a lot like sanding a smooth curve onto the corner of a piece of wood. Turn the cylinder and melt the edges. Keep shifting the ice to round it more and more until you have a sphere.
Press Method: Shell out big bucks, find someone else to shell out big bucks, or try to score a crazy deal on eBay to get an Ice Ball Maker (aka Ice Press). Open the press and insert the cylinder of ice and rest the top back on the ice. The small amount of pressure is now what is doing the work – it’s the mass of aluminum. It starts at room temperature and has a high thermal mass. It melts the ice and its temperature drops. If the chunk of ice is not too big, the excess will melt away as the metal comes in contact with ice. The technique works for shapes other than a sphere. Below is an example video … from Macallan, of course.
I think it’s time for a Gin. Hendricks, perhaps ?