Serious whiskey drinkers might claim that the only way to drink good whiskey is to take it neat, with nothing more than ice at most.
The flavor and savors of a good whiskey can change greatly over time, even sip to sip. So, to disturb the liquor’s natural evolution as little as possible, cocktailians have gone to extraordinary lengths to decrease the surface area of the ice that goes into their drink, retarding and restricting the dilution of the liquor as much as possible.
It follows, then, that a perfect sphere is an ideal shape for the job.
While the 8 ball ice sphere is not new, what Sean Brock, a serious whiskey drinker, does with it is novel. During a five-hour cocktail session starting at midnight, when he locked us in Husk Bar, he showed us, among other potable wonders, the way he makes and drinks whiskey with an 8 ball ice sphere.
Eight ball ice spheres aren’t cheap to make. They can only be cast one at at time with a metal die that costs north of $1,200.
The die consists of two, heavy metal cylinders, each with one half of the sphere’s mold. The cylinders are stacked, one on top of each other, the top one fitting onto the bottom half, guided by two rail poles. The die is heated and a block of ice is set between the two halves. As the weight of the top half presses down on the the block of ice, heat from both ends melt the block until the ice is compressed into the spherical hollow in the middle. The result is a perfectly round globe of ice.
See for yourself:
1. A block of pristine ice made with reverse osmosis filtered water.
The clarity is incredible.
* * *
2. The block of ice is set between the two heated halves of the die.
* * *
3. The weight of the top die, coupled with heat from both ends, melts the block of ice, stamping out a perfect sphere in the center hollow. You can see run-off streaming down the sides of the die.
* * *
4. The top half of the die is removed and the 8 ball is turned out before
it melts from the residual heat from the bottom half of the die.
* * *
5. Due to the filtration of the water, the 8 ball ice sphere at Husk Bar has an amazing clarity – like a crystal ball. (You can see Brock upside down in the sphere.)
* * *
At Husk Bar, whiskey is served in repurposed wine bottles, which have that unmistakable punt rising up from the bottom. The drink is never poured above the top of the punt, leaving it an island surrounded by a moat of liquor. The 8 ball ice sphere is then set on top of the punt, separated from the liquor. As the ice ball melts, it sweats into the drink slowly. And, because it’s not actually in contact with the liquor, it cools the liquor indirectly and slowly, allowing the flavor of the whiskey to mature in the glass.
Thanks, Sean, for indulging us with 8 ball Pappy Van Winkle bourbons.