If you’re really trying to get your home cocktails tasting their best, you’ve got to perfect everything. But the easiest part of the pour/measure/chill/stir/shake/strain system to fix is the one people usually overlook. The ice is the cheapest and easiest made part of your drink, but it’s also the easiest to foul up.
See, ice is made of water, and water is very good at absorbing flavors and odors in its surroundings. In the case of frozen water that’s destined for your martini shaker (or for a swim in the 18-year-old Scotch your dad bought you for your birthday), that includes all of the odors and flavors that might be swirling around in your freezer.
“Wait, what?” you say. “My freezer is — well, frozen. It’s clean. Everything in there is sealed up.”
Maybe. Nothing’s perfect. Many things that go into freezers aren’t frozen when you put them in. If you’re freezing leftovers in plastic containers, or if you’re using resealable freezer bags, that’s not a perfect system. Plus, most refrigerator/freezer units are made with the two compartments sharing a common pocket of air — meaning that some of the garlickey essence of the leftover shrimp scampi you brought home from the restaurant, sealed loosely in a non-airtight cardboard box, is slowly wafting its way to your ice.
How to fix this? If you wanted to be really careful, you could start using covered ice trays, which would seal the water away from the moment you put it in the freezer. If you like to keep more ice in reserve, you’ll want to then store the ice you’ve made in airtight containers, like a gallon-size heavy-duty freezer bag, or a plastic container with a locking lid.
Alternately, if you want clean ice, keep your fridge clean. Store everything in airtight containers, clean out food when it goes bad (or before, preferably), clean up any spills, give everything a regular wipe-down, and use baking soda (as directed) to absorb any odor that might escape from your carefully stowed food. It’s a jokey but true saying in the industry that a clean bar is a happy bar. It follows, then, that clean ice is happy ice. Clean ice comes from a clean fridge. So clean your fridge. (If it helps, you can have a drink while you do it. Thus completing the circle of life … or, at least, the circle of ice.)