We Ask Icepert Camper English—How to Make Awe-Inspiring Ice in Cocktails
Camper English’s The Ice Book: Cool Cubes, Clear Spheres, and Other Chill Cocktail Crafts
Cocktails and spirits writer, and speaker Camper English has covered the craft cocktail renaissance for nearly two decades. After a great deal of trial and error, in 2009 he revealed a simple method for making clear ice that is now used all over the world. Since then, English’s icy influence has snowballed (so many ice puns!) He has written several dozen articles, with his work seen in over fifty publications where he speaks on this unique specialty of his, reaching audiences worldwide.
In his latest title The Ice Book: Cool Cubes, Clear Spheres, and Other Chill Cocktail Crafts the internationally renowned cocktail “icepert” details how to use directional freezing to make perfectly pure ice in a home freezer, carve it up into giant diamonds and other shapes, and embed it with garnishes, including edible orchids and olives. Readers can learn how to create a frozen bowl for Negroni punch, serve a Manhattan inside an ice sphere, and infuse cubes with colors and flavors to create cranberry cobblers, a color-changing Gin and Tonic, and other awesome drinks. Chilled got the chance to break the ice (another one!) with Camper about his new book, ice hacks, and tips to creating amazingly cool drinks!
Tell us about your new book. What inspired you to write it?
In 2009 I figured out a method to make clear ice at home, after much experimentation. Though the technique caught on with bartenders, in the past three or so years consumers have become more aware of it thanks to TikTok and Instagram. So, there were enough people interested in the subject to convince a publisher to print it. The Ice Book contains many ways to make clear ice, carve and cut it up into different shapes, freeze objects inside of it, and bedazzle it in various ways. Then there is a section on colored and flavored ice, plus several cocktail recipes along the way.
Talk about being an icepert.
Well since I’ve been making clear ice so long, people contact me regularly asking for advice (Alcademics.com). I do really enjoy experimenting with ice and coming up with new ideas for what to make and what to do with it, but at the end of the day it’s arts and crafts that you can drink.
Tell us how to make perfectly pure ice.
It’s easy. Fill an insulated hard-sided cooler with water (regular tap or filtered, no need to boil it) and put it into your freezer, leaving the top off. Take it out after a couple of days and you’ll have a slab of clear ice. If you leave it longer it will be cloudy on the bottom of the block, and you can cut that part off. That’s the basic technique that you can do so much with by extending it to other shapes and sizes using hacks from The Ice Book.
Tell us about some of your cool ice-making techniques.
The hot new thing is taking this clear ice and pressing patterns on top of it. There are some specialty tools for this, or you can use things like a cookie press or metal potato masher to do it.
What can different types of ice bring to cocktails?
Ice impacts both chilling and the dilution of a cocktail, and big cubes chill and dilute more slowly than the same number of small cubes. Clear ice melts a bit more slowly than cloudy ice but honestly the main impact is visual. It helps sell more cocktails and get more Instagram hits because drinks look so much better.
What are some ways to use ice to provide the WOW factor in cocktails?
Large, clear ice is the first step. Then you can maximize the impact of it by having something to read through your cube on your drink coasters, or put a lime slice beneath the cube, or set a garnish like a single mint leaf or powdered sugar atop the cube in an Old Fashioned glass.
What is the greatest information you have learned from creating cocktails behind the bar?
Ice can be both an ingredient and a garnish in a cocktail. A functional garnish if you will.
What advice can you give to other bartenders hoping to improve their icy craft?
There is so much free training and information out there; always try to be actively learning or experimenting with something. Pick a project and work on it. I picked ice!
Garnish on the Inside: Camper’s Tips to Creating Jaw-Dropping Cocktail Ice
1. The easiest way to get started making clear cubes infused with objects is to take the garnish from a drink and put it inside an ice cube. An olive for a Martini, cherry for a Manhattan, citrus peels for a lot of other drinks. So the first step is to decide what drink you want to make more spectacular.
2. Decide on a clear ice system—you can buy commercially available clear ice or sphere trays or use one of the hacks in The Ice Book to make one yourself. For cube trays I like the industrial-quality ones from Ghost Ice, lean and less expensive Clearly Frozen, or Dexas IceOlogy for home use.
3. Citrus peels are the easiest objects to freeze. Give them a trim with a knife or pinking shears for a zigzag edge, tie them in a knot, or use aspic cutters to cut them into shapes or letters. Avoid using anything juicy like a thick citrus wheel as the juice can make cloudy ice.
4. Set the object in your cube or sphere tray. Ideally you want to rest the citrus peel or other object on the bottom of the tray rather than allowing it to float on the surface but be careful not to block the hole in the bottom of the tray. You might find it’s easier to lean them against the side of the cube or sphere tray.
5. Freeze your cubes, remove them the next day, and store them. Avoid storing wet cubes touching each other as they’ll freeze together.
Camper English is a cocktails and spirits writer and speaker who has covered the craft cocktail renaissance for over 15 years, contributing to more than fifty publications including Popular Science, Saveur, Details, Whisky Advocate, and Drinks International. After much experimentation, in 2009 he revealed a simple method for making clear ice that is now used all over the world. He has since written dozens of articles and given talks about ice internationally. His previous book is Doctors and Distillers: The Remarkable Medicinal History of Beer, Wine, Spirits, and Cocktails.
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