The phrase “go small or go home” may not be, as of yet, an actual saying, but soon it might be. Case in point: the mini ice ball silicone molds listed as required “specialty equipment” in the recently released drink bible The Aviary Cocktail Book. Among the drinks calling for mini ice balls is a deceptively complex Gin & Tonic, which calls for 100 hemispherical frozen “cucumber juniper bubbles,” each approximately 16 millimeters in diameter.
Why does one need a mini ice ball mold, one might ask? Because it’ll up your at-home cocktail game multifold. Yes, The Aviary Cocktail Book, penned by the boozed-up geniuses at the eponymous Chicago institution, is clearly meant to be more aspirational than practical, much like the Alinea cookbook before it. The book’s description of the Gin & Tonic even admits that the drink “has never actually appeared on our menu,” because the labor of producing so many tiny frozen balls for a single drink is so absurd.
And yet. Take it from someone who initially balked at buying a mini ice ball mold: A glassful of mini ice balls is infinitely cooler than a single giant ice ball. It just is. There are practical benefits to miniature ice, too.
“Opting for smaller ice balls is a flavor-driven decision,” explained Micah Melton, the beverage director for The Alinea Group and 2015 Eater Young Gun. “Due to the smaller surface area, they melt faster. This is helpful when we want the flavor [in the ice] to infuse faster into the drink.”
And, among the more extravagant equipment described in the book — like an actual centrifuge, which can cost hundreds of dollars — a piece of novelty silicone is downright reasonable. Although The Aviary’s molds were custom-made by the design studio Crucial Detail and are not for sale, Mydio’s 12 millimeter-sphere mold is a worthy alternative. It only makes 40 spheres a tray, but at just $10 a pop, you can buy a couple and not break the bank.
Even if you don’t follow The Aviary’s Gin & Tonic recipe to a T (it suggests making 600 spheres for a small gathering’s worth of drinks, which is admittedly a bit much), even a handful of cucumber juniper bubbles lounging at the bottom of a rocks glass is bound to impress the at-home cocktail crowd.
Buy Mydio 40-Tray Mini Ice Ball Mold, $10