Ice is genius. The cube is genius. The ice cube is genius times two to the third. No doubt a large number. And yet, the ice enthusiast maintains aspirations.
Like transparency. Many a cocktail engineer employs distilled water, double-boiled water, double-boiled distilled water or an enormous machine that squeezes out the air bubbles, yielding perfectly clear ice. He carves the crystal into big, bold blocks that make drinks colder – and cooler.
On the flip side, many an ice aficionada fills her trays with berries, flowers and herbs – frozen fossils that dress up chill concoctions.
Both approaches suffer from the same design flaw. Ice is crafted from water, and water tends toward watery. In a tumbler of scotch, a bit of melt is the goal. In everything else, it’s a nuisance. Which explains the current craze for redundancy: Coffee cubes for iced coffee, chai cubes for iced tea, cookies-and-milk cubes for no good reason at all.
Watermelon is one step ahead: Just cut and freeze. The cubes tumble out pretty, tasty and incapable of diluting a drink. Genius, minus the fuss.
Prep time: 15 minutes, plus 2 hours freezing and chilling
Cook time: 5 minutes
4 big slabs watermelon
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
Finely grated zest of 4 limes
2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice
10 fresh mint leaves
Sparkling water, optional
1. Freeze: Cut watermelon into neat 1-inch cubes. (No need to remove seeds – they’re cute.) Set cubes on a rimmed baking sheet and freeze firm, at least 2 hours. Pile into a zip-close bag, and store in freezer.
2. Simmer: Measure water and sugar into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir until sugar has dissolved and syrup turns from cloudy to clear, 3 to 4 minutes. Pull pan off heat. Stir in zest. Pour into a heat-proof jar and allow to cool to room temperature, uncovered. Transfer to refrigerator to chill, covered. When cold, stir in juice. Keep tightly covered in the refrigerator.
3. Serve: For each drink, pile frozen watermelon cubes into a tall glass. Add 1 mint leaf. Pour in equal parts water and lime syrup. Stir. Sip. Smile.
Yield: 5 cups syrup, serves 10