Technically, it’s still summer for another couple of weeks. So I’m hanging on to that last shred of warm weather-worshipping with this cocktail, the Gin & Tonic with Spiced Ice. Why I like this one: the ice cubes are striking, and then as they melt the drink takes on a golden tone and a hint of sizzle.
This cocktail is inspired by saffron-infused cubes served at New York’s Pamplona restaurant, created by chef Alex Urena. I asked him why he infused the ice at all – let alone with saffron.
“It’s about the taste and the color,” he explained. “We chose saffron because it is very Spanish.” And why infuse ice? “Because the liquor doesn’t freeze.” Apparently, you can combine water and liquor together and then it will freeze, “but it won’t be as good as straight liquor.” At the time, he was also experimenting with fruit-infused ice cubes too, making popsicle-like peach ice cubes to use in peach mojitos.
As usual, I can never have too much of a good thing, so I took his idea to double-dare level by spiking the ice cubes with hot habaneros!
Gin & Tonic with Spiced Ice
Yield: 1 drink
To make 1 tray of Spiced Ice Cubes:
1 sliced habanero pepper
3 cups water
3 cups sugar
8 Saffron threads, crumbled
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to the boiling point. Stir until sugar is dissolved, about five minutes. Allow to cool, then remove the pepper and pour into ice cube tray. Freeze until solid.
To make one drink:
2 ounces gin (I suggest Old Raj, which is infused with saffron; or substitute your favorite gin)
4 ounces tonic
4 Spiced Ice Cubes
Pour gin and tonic over 4 “spiced ice” cubes in a tall glass and stir. Serve with a colorful swizzle stick.
© “Spice & Ice – 60 tongue-tingling cocktails.” Photo credit: Antonis Achilleos / Chronicle Books