The American fascination with ice in soft drinks and water is one of the first things to strike many visitors to the United States. Even sparkling water is not spared this cruel treatment. I may not be able to change the use of ice in soft drinks, but I hope there is a chance to save bottled water from this fate. Ice is the natural enemy of bottled water (and soft drinks for that matter).
Before drinking, bottled water should be cooled to the proper temperature without ice. As ice made from tap water melts, it dilutes the bottled water, water that has been taken from its natural source, bottled with great care, and shipped halfway around the world. There is usually nothing wrong with tap water, but it just does not belong in natural bottled water.
The troubles become apparent if you look closely at how the ice is actually produced, stored, and handled. For example, a bottle of water is usually opened at the table, but you have no idea who handled your ice and how long it has been sitting around in an open container.
There is, of course, a "legitimate" use of ice in cocktails and mixed drinks, and I know there are many people who don’t want to give up the additional mouthfeel of crushing ice with their teeth. The solution to the problem is to take control of your ice’s supply chain.
Sound complicated? It’s actually very simple: Source it yourself, or use a source you trust.
Some innovative bottled water companies, such as Island Ice, have begun offering single-use ice cube trays filled at the source. All you have to do is put these prefilled trays, called drink ice, into the freezer.
When you open a tray of drink ice, you can be sure it’s the first time the ice has encountered the air since it left the clean room in which the tray was filled. Drink ice is much too expensive to fill your cooler with, but I hope it will become a standard in bars and restaurants for mixed drinks and cocktails.
I look forward to the time when people can select not only the vodka for their martini, but also the ice. "Make this an Island Ice Ketel One Martini with two olives, please."
ICE CUBE TRAYS
At home, just fill your ice cube tray with the bottled water you plan to drink. This makes the ice cubes a little bit more expensive, but it is worth the cost. Choose these cubes if you must have ice in your water, or you can use them for making cocktails.
For example, you may have spent a fortune on the latest and greatest vodka for your martini, but then you use ice cubes made of tap water to mix the drink. Try freezing a high-end water with a neutral pH and a low TDS in some designer ice cube trays. The taste will be improved, and your guests will be impressed.
Ice cubes do shrink in their trays, especially in frost-free refrigerators, which are often very dry—about twenty percent relative humidity. The evaporation phenomenon is called sublimation; fill the tray right to the top to minimize its effects. If you want transparent ice cubes, use distilled water (such as Le Bleu) that is not aerated. You will have to experiment with the freezing rate. Clear ice usually does not stay that way for long.