The Stone Age vs. The Ice Age
In which Lars takes one for the team and gives a bar gadget a fighting chance.
I like my drinks ice cold. Whether I like them too cold is a matter of some debate. My Cajun Uncle Jerry complains that I drink my beer too cold and many of the Scotch drinkers I know tell me I should drink it as it’s intended to be drunk — room temperature, right out of the bottle.
When it comes to cocktails, though, I think colder is always better. A couple of weeks ago, David and I found ourselves drinking finely crafted cocktails at The Varnish in downtown Los Angeles, and I noticed that our bartender Eugene was shaking his drinks for a really long time. A good thirty seconds at least — much longer than I had been shaking them at home. So I tried the technique the next evening and I found that the longer shake produced a much colder cocktail with a much more velvety texture that was almost carbonated. It’s taken my Whiskey Sours, in particular, to another level.
But a problem still remains: when it’s hot outside — and it’s almost always hot outside here in Los Angeles — my Sours warm up way too quickly. Then one day, while surfing cocktail related websites, I stumbled on a potential solution… Whiskey Stones.
Whiskey Stones are small dice-sized, non-porous stones that you keep in your freezer so that you can add them to high quality Scotch or Whiskey — the idea being that some people like their Scotch chilled but don’t want to float ice made with water of a dubious quality in their drinks.
So I bought a set of nine stones for fifteen dollars and set out to give them a try. My first experiment was to use the stones as they were intended… in a glass of Whiskey served straight up. I placed two stones in the bottom of a rocks glass and poured two fingers of Aberlour on top of them. Even after a few minutes of waiting, the temperature of the Whiskey never really seemed to change much at all. So I moved up to three stones with the exact same result.
I finally began to see some real temperature movement at four stones. Almost instantly, the drink dropped to just about the perfect temperature. GREAT, I thought. But then about two minutes later, I put the drink to my lips again and noticed that the Scotch had already begun to warm up. I pulled one of the stones out of the liquid and held it in my hand. Even though it hadn’t been more than a minute or two, the stone had already returned to room temprature. Indeed, the Scotch did hold its temperature for a while longer, but now it was bothering my sense of asthetics that there were four rocks sitting at the bottom of my Scotch glass not really pulling their weight. And I’m not sure that, at the end of the day, the whole endeavor was really worth the trouble.
I guess you could say: but Lars, you didn’t experiment with more stones. Maybe 6 or 8, or even 9 stones would make a huge difference. And, maybe you’re right. I COULD add more stones, but ask yourself this, do you really want six (or more?) rocks sitting in the bottom of your Scotch? Probably not.
As for my Cocktails, my theory was that if these Whiskey Stones proved worthy of their claims, that I could drop some in my Whiskey Sours and my cocktails would hold their temperature longer. But if I’m using a coupe or similar glass, there really isn’t room for more than one or two stones. Besides, if I can only get a few seconds of chill from those two stones, I think I’m better off simply relying on Eugene’s technique of a nice long shake.
Final verdict: Save yourself some money. Shake your cocktail longer (use big ice so the drink won’t get watered down as much). And, if you want your Scotch chilled, buy filtered water and make special ice cubes that won’t affect the flavor of your drink.