Wednesday, March 19, 2014

APPLEJACK-OFF 2014: The Apple-tini

The Apple-tini

 So it's probably inevitable that a series devoted to Apples and the alcoholic beverages made therefrom would be able to avoid the dreaded Apple-tini.  Yes this bane of the bar world has infiltrated the globe so thoroughly that you can even get them in Saudi Arabia if you know where to look (probably the South Pole too).   

With only limited experience, we must admit that bar tenders who actually work for a living probably like these things.  They're ridiculously simple, you can charge a lot for them, and they get people hammered, and drunk people leave bigger tips.  People who call themselves "cocktail artists" hate them because it doesn't give them a chance to show off, but there's always someone in the group that wants one of these and doesn't care about your home-made Acai berry bitters which you've aged inside the hollowed out unicorn horn. 

We now give you a way to satiate the vapid calls for Apple-tinis without compromising your cocktail crafting integrity.

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What seems like 10 years ago at the beginning of the Pinky Mixology Applejack-Off, in an effort to show you what applejack is and what it isn't, we decided to make an infusion of apple peels in 40% grain alcohol and let it sit until we had something apple flavored.   This is the result.

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The apple peels give a really nice flavor to the vodka, and we assume it would also add the same nice qualities to light rum or Tequila blanco.  It doesn't add sweetness however, just flavor qualities so it will not taste like that appletini mix you see at the store

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Yes, we pick on hipsters, even the ones who are "from" Brooklyn.

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If you are going to be with a group and a few of them like the girly drinks like Skinny Girl (seriously, that stuff is so nasty), making a pitcher of these is a great way to not only give them what they want but at the same time the serious cocktail drinkers won't have a problem with it because it is much less artificial than anything else.  You can use organic vodka, organic apple peel, natural stevia or Sugar in the Raw or whatever, and we're sure there's some sort of organic vegan green food-coloring you can pick up at Whole Foods for only $45. 

We'll be wrapping up the 2014 Applejack-off soon, where we will be announcing the rules for our t-shirt giveaway.  Please keep in mind that the t-shirt we're giving away doesn't have anything to do with apples, but it's still a nice one.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Product Review: Arctic Chill Ice Ball Makers


Our friend Rizzi at Arctic Chill has once again sent us some goodies for the purposes of releasing our sage-like wisdom to the public. This time we're focusing on their Ice Ball molds, which ...make balls of ice when you fill them with water and put them in the freezer.  

Let this be a lesson unto all labels, manufactures, or distillers:  Send us stuff and we'll make a post about it here.

Unlike the Arctic Chill Muddler, these Ice Ball Makers are soft things that go in the freezer.  But like the Arctic Chill Muddler, the Arctic Chill Ice Ball Makers are available on and you can follow this link to the purchasing page.  Additionally, you can see them at the Arctic Chill’s own website here.

Let’s take a look at this invention shall we?

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Again, these are from Arctic Chill, makers of bar-ware and other cocktail accessories. 

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Behold the science:  The less surface area you have, the slower ice will melt in anything.  This means less of that water ends up turning your finely aged spirits into flat failures as you continue your libation.

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Yes, these photo shoots take time and usually have hot lights, and so to keep ice from melting, which would prevent accurate measuring, we have gone outside in the Arctic Vortex to make sure that everything stays in a solid state.

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As you can see we have added some food coloring to our ice.  This is just so that it photographs better and the difference will be as apparent and easy to spot as possible.

These measurements were made on a digital scale but rounded a bit just to make things easy.  While we will forever hate the metric system, its ease of use is not lost on us here on Pinky Mixology, and so we'll be including it here.

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This glass holds 9 ounces when filled to the top.  No normal human being usually fills a martini glass until the only thing keeping in the liquid is surface tension, but we're doing science here.  No matter what the shape of your vessel, the Arctic Chill Ice Ball will always displace the same amount, so there's no reason to check it in other glasses, but what changes is the percentage of displacement.  When 4 ounces is 50% of what's in there, that's a big deal, but when it's 10%, not so much.

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You may notice that our water/booze has turned the color of the dyed ice rather dramatically.  This is because the ice is put into the glass first and then has the liquid poured into it, in order to perform accurate measuring.  Also, this is how just about every drink out there is made (no one puts ice in a drink after it's all mixed), so it's a good way to gauge the early melt which happens when you pour stuff over ice.  The darker the water, the larger the amount of initial melt.

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While the Arctic Chill Ice Ball doesn't share many flaws with things like Whiskey Stones or those metal drink chillers, in the standard bar tumbler/pint glass it will roll down and smack you in the teeth as you finish the end of your drink.  With normal ice cubes that's annoying enough, but let's remember that this thing starts off weighing about 4 to 5 times as much as a normal ice cube.

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It is unfortunate that the Arctic Chill Ice Ball set doesn't come with a mold to make some relatively smaller spheres so as to be able to stack into a highball glass.  From The Gin & Tonic to the Bloody Mary, and every Long Island Iced Tea in between, highball glasses are almost always accompanied with ice in anything they contain.  Not being able to get this into one does take away an area of functionality which would have added considerable value to the over all product.

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All comparisons between ice shapes are done by weight and are within less than 1/4 ounce of dead on.  Obviously we aren't going to be sawing an ice cube in half or something so we get as close as we can.

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Now that really is ridiculous.  If you were at a bar and they shoved that much ice in a glass of anything you'd be calling shenanigans before they even put the coaster down.  The Arctic Chill Ice Ball does indeed give your drink the cooling power of all that ice, but without taking up so much space or releasing so much water into the mix.

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Now for the melt time of the Arctic Chill Ice Ball.
We kept this glass inside a room at 70F (yes we had a thermometer going) and the internal temp stayed at 43F.

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We're not going to plot this curve out (you math people can do that on your own if you feel like) but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that after the initial melting caused by the pouring of liquid over the Ice Ball, the rate of melt (aka the loss of mass) is extremely slow.  In the same environment with the same amount of water, our green cubes were close to toast.  Our red and blue cubes were still about 45-40% there but we had much less of our base beverage in there.  All temps were holding at 43-45F with the Arctic Chill Ice Ball being the coldest.

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Yup, that's a huge 130 minutes that the Arctic Chill Ice Ball held out in a 70F room before melting away.  The temp of the drink remained 43F throughout that time.  Even our big GE ice cubes were toast just after one hour.  2 hours and 10 minutes is much longer than a drink should sit before being finished, and so any issues you may have of the entire ball melting and adding all that water to your drink should not be a concern unless you have an advanced nursing degree.

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They are nifty, but they're not perfect.  Here are some of the issues we encountered.

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By far, expansion is the biggest issue we faced.  When filled to the top, the ice will expand, pushing out quite a bit and even seperating the 2 halves, causing an unsightly ring round the center of the Ice Ball (Imagine a reverse Death Star with a ridge, not a trench, across the middle and a lumpy nipple where the indent for the laser should be). 

Like with the Arctic Chill Muddler, addressing the biggest problem with the Ice Balls is very easy.  Being flexible silicone, you can just squeeze out a few drops of water after filling it all the way up and this kind of thing won't happen.  We filled these all the way up just to show you that this is a possible thing that can happen if you don't take appropriate measures.

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The Mpemba effect (yes that's a thing), is the phenomenon of hot water freezing faster than chilled water.  Science still can't figure out exactly what that happens, but when it does happen, it means that the ice from hot water freezes more clearly and transparently, while cold water tends to produce that opaque white we are all familiar with.  Being silicone, these Ice Ball makers do insulate their interiors enough to mitigate this, so you will A) wait longer than standard ice cubes for these to be ready to go, and B) you will most likely get opaque ice balls out of this.  

One non-issue was that, just out of the box, these have a strong plastic / new-product smell to them.  After a quick initial wash in soap and water removed the smell, our ice never picked up that smell at all.

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Ok we just wanted to see what would happen if we put jello in there.  Maybe something like Flan or frozen yogurt would be nice in there too.  Oddly enough, when we froze one of the jello filled balls, it turned into an amazing soft ice fruit treat.  Although it wouldn't come out of the mold in once piece, we chomped it down and it was really good.  If you've ever had Kakigori or Grattachecca before, it's almost the same thing.  Perfect for hot days.

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To recap, the Arctic Chill Ice Balls do exactly what they say they do.  They kept our drinks colder, much longer, all the while taking up less space and allowing for more hooch.  They look cool, and they are not hard to keep clean.  Although there are only 4 in the box, you can create an army of these Ice Balls just by making them before you need them and stashing them away in a container or zip-top bag in your freezer. 

If you only have straight spirits on the rocks at airport lounges (or straight from a plastic bottle in the park), then these might not be the one thing you're really needing, but these are a great must-have/should-have if you do any of the following: 

; How cool is it gonna be when you bring out that Pimm's Cup or pour the Sangria with  round ice balls in there, and all your friends think you're so amazing.

Smoke Cigars
;  Enjoying a cigar is a slow process and so your Scotch needs to keep an accompanying pace, which is where that very slow melting process becomes valuable.

Play Cards;  If you play poker, you have certainly been in the situation where you got really into one long or intense hand, and then you look back at your Walker Green or Makers 46 and realize that you drowned the thing.  That won't happen with this.  

Finally, we should mention that The Arctic Chill Ice Ball is perfect for (metal, not glass) cocktail shakers.  It gets things hella cold, but is big enough so that it's super-easy to prevent it slipping out when pouring from the split (try that with those little ice-machine ice cubes).

One thing we would like to see, is for one of the Ice Ball molds to look the same on the outside, but have the inside divided into smaller chambers so that 2-3 smaller ice balls can be made for use in highball glasses. Or maybe offer an insert that makes variable sizes.

The Arctic Chill Ice Ball Maker is available from You know you want it.

To find out about other Arctic Chill products, check out our review of the AC Muddler.

Arctic Chill's own website is here.

Friday, March 14, 2014


Final Thoughts.

Black Dirt Applejack from The Black Dirt Distillery is one of the most complex and intense distilled spirit we have ever encountered, let alone an intense applejack.  The only one we've covered that is bottled in bond, it is something special and is a fun experience either neat or in various cocktail creations.

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Black Dirt Applejack has dark apple notes and a smokey tone that really comes in at about the middle.  Like we said before, this is the one you want to put up against the most brutal of ingredients that you can find out there.  Coffee, spice, and sweet stuff, nothing out there can overpower this stuff.

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Black Dirt Applejack is made in Warwick NY, and they are the sister/cousin/crazy uncle-company of Warwick Valley Winery, makers of Doc's Draft Cider and other good things.  Warwick Valley has a facility open to the public and gives tours.  You can see their schedule here.