What Is Dry Ice and How To Use It?
What is Dry Ice?
Dry Ice is the solid form of carbon dioxide, with a temperature averaging at – 70° celcius. The gas is cooled, then pressurised into blocks or pellets for later use. When placed in higher temperatures such as a drink, the solid carbon dioxide changes from a solid into a gas, without going through the liquid phase. This is known has sublimation, and why we call it “dry ice”.
It has many uses, including flash freezing food to ensure freshness and creating well known fog or smoke effects on movie sets.
It’s use behind the bar has grown in popularity over the years with smoking cocktails becoming a frequent sight throughout the year, not just halloween. One of our favouite uses of dry ice is to create theatre around our signature martini towers.
Dry ice is a great way of making drinks instagrammable. Check out our guide to making cocktails instagrammable
Is My Dry Ice ‘Drink-Safe’?
You’ll find a variety of options when buying dry-ice online. From large blocks to individual pellets. We recommend pellets as they are already portion sized, removing the need for a hammer and chisel. While all dry ice may provide the same effect, not all of it is ‘Food-Grade’. It’s important then, to make sure you understand the difference before ordering.
As mentioned above, dry ice is just another name for solid carbon dioxide, but like any other chemical it may or may not be 100% pure. Some impurities are harmless, while other may potentially harbor nasty contaminents due to its manufacturing process. For this reason, ensure you purchase ‘Food-Grade’ dry ice from a reputable supplier.
Storing your Dry Ice
The decision on how much you’ll need should be down to the volume of drinks you want to serve. You’ll need to keep in mind that it has a limited shelf life, and will naturally deteriorate into CO2 over time from its production to its use. For this reason, we recommend ordering a bit more than you need and having it delivered on the day you require it to ensure your dry ice is good to use. In theory the more of it stored in one place, the cooler it stays and the longer the lifespan.
On average, 5kg will last anywhere up to 36 hours if stored correctly. We recommend keeping dry ice stored in the box its delieverd in, or another suitable insulated yet unsealed container. Do not store your dry ice in regular fridges, freezers, coffee flasks, or any other airtight container. This will cause dangerous pressurisation and could harbor the risk of explosion.
Handling Dry Ice
As we have already established, dry-ice is cold. Really cold, -70° degress celcius to be exact. If your skin comes into contact with it for any longer than 10 seconds you risk a case of frostbite. This also applies to ingesting it, accidentaly drinking a piece of dry ice can cause internal damage or frostbite – not fun. Exercise caution when using dry ice, as its is a dangerous product if not handled properly.
So to avoid any of these unwanted risks, follow the tips below and always take great care when handling dry ice:
1) Use thick, heavy gloves when handling. You can also use tongs, scoops or other tools to help avoid unwanted skin contact.
2) Never place dry ice in the mouth or ingest it. Avoid using straws, or use small sipping straws if required. Always remind those drinking not to let their lips touch any pieces of dry ice. Only use dry ice in cocktails with the correct equipment such as a Chillistic. This is a patented peice of bar equipment that keeps dry ice pellets locked in a safety valve.
3) Do not handle or store dry ice in enclosed areas. Dry ice will naturally deteriorate into carbon dioxide over time.
Using Dry Ice
Now your familiar with dry ice and how to handle it, here’s a few ideas to get you started:
1) If you want to create visual effects with huge rolling plumes of smoke, you’ll need a large container (an ice bucket works well) and a kettle. Add a generous scoop of dry ice, and simply pour in about 500ml of hot water. Keep it in a place away from guests so it cant be knocked over.
2) Try adding flavoured syrups that have a great smell such as vanilla of lavender to a bowl of dry ice before adding water. The smoke will carry the aroma and add an extra element to your drink or display.
3) Using dry ice directly in cocktails can look incredible and it won’t effect the flavour, but you’ll want to be careful doing so. Moderate your portion sizes, one pellet should be more than enough (1cm squared cube) to produce a 60 second effect. Companies such as Chillistick supply safe vessels to use dry ice safely. They also supply dry ice nationally.
For more tips and methods for cocktail making go back to The Cocktail Hub to find out more.