Between ice cubes in wine and beer as cold as the Rockies, it’s clear that our cravings for highly chilled drinks are practically insatiable. Whether you’re an experienced at-home mixologist or imbibe only occasionally, knowing when to head to the freezer or the bar cart can make your drinks exponentially tastier (and potentially save you from ruining your drinks).
No, You Don’t Have to Steer Totally Clear of Dark Spirits
Record says that, contrary to common belief, the spirits you freeze need not only be clear. Though vodka is the liquor most commonly found in ice boxes, you can technically freeze any spirit you like.
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But there’s a caveat: Though low temperatures won’t harm a spirit, “the cold certainly bothers it,” says Record. That’s because spirits that have not undergone chill filtering often end up with a murky appearance once frozen — the result of a separation of acids and lipids in the liquid. Though this is a perfectly natural process that won’t affect the flavor of a spirit, it may result in whiskies and other darker spirits developing an unwanted cloudy appearance.
Ask Yourself Why You Want to Freeze That Bottle
Before touching that freezer door, it’s important to consider why you want a spirit or cocktail to be frozen in the first place — a question to which there are two common answers. The first is to avoid over-dilution of a spirit-forward cocktail like a Martini. The second is to hide impurities in a bottom-shelf or lower-quality spirit. “When it’s really cold, you miss out on some of the things that might be a flaw at a warmer temperature,” Record says. “The colder that OK vodka is, the more it tastes just like the really nice vodka.” That’s why, at spirits competitions, judges taste everything at room temperature.
With all of that in mind, it’s not typically ideal to freeze top-shelf spirits, as doing so could hide the full range of aromas and tastes they have to offer, even though the cold can highlight certain flavors by muting others in a few cases. “Some of the more earthy notes can be downplayed when gin is frozen in favor of some of the citrus notes,” Record explains.
For Entertaining Emergencies
Freezing pre-mixed cocktails — most commonly Martinis — is a great way to batch and prepare for guests ahead of time, and to make sure the drinks you’re serving are at an optimal temperature. But when doing so, always remember to add some water to the mixture. As you won’t be shaking or stirring with ice, a bit of water will help dilute the mixture so your drinks will be more quaffable by muting booze’s harsher flavors. But beware: Too much H2O could cause your drink to freeze over and be virtually undrinkable. For most cocktails, a 5-to-1 cocktail-to-water ratio is a safe bet.
You Can Freeze Your Less Boozy Bottles
While most bartenders freeze only high-proof spirits (which have higher freezing-points), Record enjoys serving certain liqueurs frozen and slightly slushy. He even freezes some of his favorite amari. “I think the Jägermeister principle is really fantastic,” he says.
Ultimately, when it comes to the drinks in his freezer, Record doesn’t discriminate. “I prefer my gins, my vodkas, and my aquavit frozen,” he says. “I typically don’t like my whiskey cocktails as cold, so I’m not making Boulevardiers or Manhattans frozen ahead of time.” That said, he insists that people should drink what they like, how they like it — and shouldn’t be afraid to break norms: “Put your Pappy in the fridge if that’s truly what makes you happy.”