It’s a new ice age: Create customized ice that will make a splash at your next party

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MILWAUKEE -- It's the latest fad in cocktail creations -- Artisanal ice. The right ice can take a drink from ordinary to extraordinary -- and our master mixologist Alisa Malavenda joins Real Milwaukee with some creations your family and friends will go crazy for.

Artisanal Ice – The New Ice Age

Chef Alisa Malavenda

Looking to impress your guests with artisanal ice that you can create at home. Make sure you start with the right ice for the right cocktail. Ice is a great way to make your cocktails go from ordinary to extraordinary.

Why do bartenders use certain ice for certain cocktails and what is all the fuss about?

Cubes, Spheres  and Spears

These big cubes sometimes 2x2 blocks and other times one big round balls)  are great for cocktails that are booze based like a Manhattan or negroni that you don’t want to diluted , but also chills the drink. This is where size and surface area really do matter.

Spears are also wonderful for tall drinks like a Collins or fizz drinks. Maintaining cold from top to bottom without diluting.

Crushed and Shaved - Pellet or Cracked

Crushed and Shaved is very fine and used for snow cones , mint juleps

some tike drinks, basically drinks that aren’t harmed by dilution because they melt fast.

Cracked ice is smaller than cubes, good for making margaritas and daiquiri’s so the big cubes don’t clog up your blender ( kind of the size of the gas station ice)

2/3 – 1 C of ice is usually good for one drink depending on how strong you want it.

Pellet is what comes out of soda fountains and some home fridges. If your fridge makes big you can use a blender or something called a Lewis bag and a hammer until they are the right size. The look like ice pebbles and are great for tiki drinks

Outliers - Here is where some fun begins with Artisan Ice

Infused Ice – infuse spices like cinnamon or nutmeg or use coconut water, to give an essence of flavor to a cocktail.  Infuse ice with edible flowers, fresh fruit and herbs for a subtle flavor in your cocktail. Plus they are gorgeous!

Use fruit and vegetable juice as ice – This adds lots of flavor to drinks and changes the drink character and flavor of the drink as they melt.

Inside out ice – hollow ice spheres – the concept of “cocktailing your ice instead of icing your cocktail”

Ice Disks – Disks of ice that fits over the glass so you can set garnish or” bite” on top.

Dry Ice- Use with caution to create a foggy cocktail to impress-   always wait until the dry ice dissipates before consuming the drink.

Ice vehicles – create a ice shot glass for chilled shots or use a whiskey glass wedge to create a perfect whiskey chilled that won’t become diluted.

Cocktail suggestions :

Inside Out Old Fashion ( hollow ice sphere )

Make Ice Ball

Using a spherical ice mold

  • Fill to maximum line and close with the silicone cap. Place it in the coldest part of your freezer. Depending on freezer ( you may have to test it a few times , but approximately 2-3 hours you should have a frozen ball with ¼ inch thick wall and liquid water inside.
  • Remove from freezer, and run under cool water for a few seconds to release cap and poke a hole with a large syringe needle or tip of a knife
  • Turn upside down and drain water. Remove the bottom of the mold and place back in the freezer until ready to use

For the Cocktail

1 orange wheel

½ oz Tart Cherry Grenadine

3 drops of black strap bitters

2 oz bourbon

Splash of club soda

2 luxardo cherries

To Serve:

  • Place Orange Wheel in the bottom of a rocks glass.
  • Add drops of bitters to orange wheel and tart cherry grenadine
  • Carefully so you don’t drop and crack ball , Place Ice ball with hole on top of orange to steady it and with a syringe fill ice ball with bourbon and plug hole with cherries on a pick.
  • Serve with a small cocktail hammer or muddler to smash the ice ball and top with a splash of club soda.

The Siren ( juice cubes and infused cubes )

Inspired and Adapted from Jack Dusty’s at the Ritz Carlton Sarasota

3 oz Vodka

2 oz Gin

1 oz St Germain ( elderflower liquer)

2 oz limoncello ( alternatively you could use 1 oz simple syrup and 1.5 oz of fresh squeezed lemon juice)

splash of prosecco or asti spumanti

1 2x2 cranberry or pomegranate ice cubes

1 2x2 red ruby grapefruit ice cubes

1 2x2 edible orchid or other edible flower ice cubes


  • Place artisan ice cubes in a big globe wine glass.
  • In a cocktail pitcher filled with ice , add vodka , gin , St Germain and limoncello.
  • Strain mixture over artisan ice cubes and top with prosecco.

Shaved Bellini ( granita )

½ C sugar and ½ C water

1 bottle of champagne

1 T lemon Juice

2 oz peach nectar

  • In a small saucepot, stir together sugar and water and bring to a boil. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove it from the heat and cool. Mix together the simple syrup, champagne and lemon juice.
  • Pour mixture in a shallow baking dish and freeze for about an hour. Use a fork to scrape the ice into shaved pieces. Return and freeze until firm- occasionally you could scrape more to have a finer shave of ice.
  • To serve, place in a champagne flute, other cocktail glass or bowl and pour peach nectar over the top.

Seafood Martini Over Crushed Ice with Tomato Water( crushed)

Mound Seafood of your choice over crushed ice or shaved ice.

Serve with tomato water on the side and pour over the seafood cocktail.

For Tomato Water:

20 plum tomatoes, rough chopped

2 T salt

1 T sugar

½ cup vodka

(If you want to add other flavors like ginger , lemon grass , basil, black pepper)

  • In a large non- reactive bowl combine all ingredients and let marinate 8 hours or over night.
  • Puree all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and strain in a fine sieve lined with cheese cloth for several hours pushing down on the solid until you have a condensed and flavorful liquid. Discard solids.



2 oz rum or tequila

2 oz apple cider

1 oz of cranberry or pomegranate juice

Combine rum and juices in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, Shake well and strain into a glass that has a few chips of dry ice for an outstanding presentation.

Always take care when using dry ice.

A few rules of thumb:

I prefer not to shake my cocktails that the sole ingredients are booze (negroni, martini or Manhattan). However, cocktails that have the addition of mixers like juice , dairy or egg whites that need aeration to create the foam and texture of a drink it is essential to shake. Crushed ice should only be used for tiki drinks, mint juleps and the like. And ALWAYS use good water remembering that the ice becomes part of the drink.