This website is about recipes, both classic and original. However, recipes alone aren’t helpful without the right tools and techniques on hand. In that vein, Sebastian posted a series on shaking and stirring that forms a good base for anyone just starting in the world of cocktails. In this post, we’ll be following that trend by providing you with our very first product review.
Disclaimer: Five Men Making Sh!t is not affiliated with Wintersmiths nor was it solicited or compensated to provide this review.
To get the TL:DR, click here.
What’s this for?
Ice is the foundation of a cocktail. Having the right ice will make your drink taste better. The problem is most ice isn’t ideal for cocktails. A typical ice tray (or ice making machine) in your freezer is insulated on the bottom and both sides, with the top exposed. This leads to the cloudy ice that you’re probably used to seeing almost everywhere. That cloudiness is actually made up of tiny air bubbles – and air is obviously not ice! This means that your ice is less dense, so it melts faster and is prone to breaking up into smaller pieces more easily, which in turn melt even faster. This makes for an over diluted and less tasty drink, so you’ll want to adjust your recipes accordingly if you still have your heart set on using sub-par ice.
Many single large ice cube and sphere molds suffer from the same issues. They work well enough for the average drinker simply due to their larger size, but the deeper we’ve delved into cocktails, the more we’ve strived for the best choice: crystal clear ice!
The Wintersmiths Ice Chest – a rectangular-shaped chest that promises hassle-free crystal clear and perfectly shaped ice. But starting at $170 (CDN), does it live up to its promise? In short, yes.
The product itself is a plastic shell with a removable foam sleeve. The more expensive model comes with two separate molds (one for cubes and one for spheres) that are inserted inside the chest itself. The less expensive version comes with just one mold, but both are available separately.
How to Use
The directions on Wintersmiths’ website note that you should only fill it to the top of the marked line in the chest, but we’ve found that that’s not sufficient, and we need to go a bit above it to get the best result. Once you’ve filled to the right level, slowly insert one mold at a time. You’ll know you have enough water in the chest if it ever so slightly seeps out of the holes at the top and into the four grooves. If no water is visible, you’ll need to add a bit more. Simply pour a little bit more over the top of the mold until the water begins to rise above the holes and pour some out if it overflows. It’ll take some trial and error before you master it, but we got the hang of it after a few attempts.
Wintersmiths’ website instructs you to leave the chest in the freezer from anywhere between 18 and 28 hours. This also took some trial and error, but we’ve found that 24-26 hours is the sweet spot. Every freezer is different, so you’ll probably have to try it out a couple of times before you get it right.
So what happens if you don’t find the sweet spot?
Leave the ice chest in the freezer for too little, and you’ll end up with only partially formed ice. And the real killer is that once you’ve opened the mold, there’s no closing it back up to freeze it again. You’ll have to start from scratch and you’ve wasted a day!
In our (unintentional) trials we found that leaving it in too long, the plastic insert can expand and end up cracking, resulting in a useless product. Luckily, when we contacted Wintersmiths to tell them what had happened, the company went above and beyond, sending us a brand new plastic insert free-of-charge. Top marks for customer service! Still though, best set a reminder on your phone. Once it’s ready, pry the mold out, pop the ice out and you have the final result – beautiful, clear ice!
Once they’re out of the mold, both the cubes and spheres will have a small ‘nub’ attached to them. If they bother you, simply take a knife and slice them off. If you’re not going to use the ice right away, store it in a freezer bag and place it back in the freezer. In our testing, we found the ice will maintain its shape and clarity for up to about a month, so it’s a great way to stock up on a bunch if you’re ever hosting a party.
Alternatively, if you were to create your own clear ice from scratch, you’d need to fill a cooler with water, wait for it to freeze, wait for it to thaw a bit, and then manually carve individual pieces. It requires tools and makes a massive mess. The Wintersmiths is a much more intuitive and efficient method.
So in the end, is the Wintersmiths Ice Chest worth the money?
You’ve probably already guessed that we think so, but we are fairly hardcore home bar enthusiasts. We definitely recommend it to people who are serious about their cocktails. If you want the best possible ice for that Old Fashioned or Negroni with little hassle, then this product is for you. However, if you are not as invested in your home bar and can get by with smaller ice cubes or the single cube and sphere molds, then this might be overkill. And at $170 (CDN), it’s definitely a lot to spend on ice.
But once you place that perfectly-shaped crystal clear ice cube in your glass, see it magically ‘disappear’, and taste the difference, it’s pretty hard to go back to the cloudy days.
Produces crystal clear ice, as advertised
Easy to use and clean
Great customer service
Determining how long to freeze the chest will take trial and error
Removing molds requires a bit of strength
Chest may take up too much room in smaller freezers