The (Shaved) Iceman Cometh

So many of our comments about New Orleans start out with the phrase, “Is there any other city anywhere that …?”

Why fight it? Is there any other city anywhere that loves their sno-balls more than New Orleans? I’ve done a lot of traveling, and the closest area I can say that does like sno-balls, maybe not as much as we do, is the Gulf Coast over to Panama City. There are numerous stands along the way that boast New Orleans-style sno-balls.

Finely shaved ice provides excellent texture with long no-melt times, then slathered with syrups of every imaginable flavor, often topped with cream, mostly because it’s damn good.  We don’t have enough sense to stop when it comes to food additions. “Just one more thing and that should do it.” Never.

What is a bit of a surprise, and maybe I am way behind the times here, is that more of us have not taken advantage of the finest shaved ice on the planet and made adult beverages with it.

Oh sure, we’ve all placed ice cubes in the blender and hit “chop”. Outside of the manufacturer’s warning not to do this, akin to sticking cotton swabs in our ears, we merrily go ahead and do it anyway.

But in the case of the chopped ice (okay, you can forget that cotton swab reference now) the results are very unsatisfactory. You end up with chunks of ice then pieces of varying sizes, none of which are suitable for slushy beverages. Better off doing the crushed ice routine the old-fashioned way, putting a bunch of cubes in a towel and then taking a hammer to it. Messy but effective.

Anyway, we have all of these wondrous machines invented here that provide the perfect style of shaved ice, and not a drop of alcohol in sight. Unless you are very good friends with the folks who operate a sno-ball stand. Then surely they have something special for you under the counter. But that is of small comfort to me.

I guess we could approach the operator of the sno-ball stand and ask for a medium cup of ice. It would be fair for them to charge something for the service since this is their main product; the syrups are probably a small part of the raw cost. We would end up with a great cup of shaved ice and then we could add whatever we wished to the cup. Saves a lot of effort and time on our part. Win-win, yes?

As for our “ingredient” we could make up something beforehand, place it into a bottle, like an empty juice container, and then just pour it into our cup. The more I think about this idea, the more I like it. The whole setup meets the laws of the City about not carrying glass containers. Other places may not look upon this as a particularly good idea, but then other places don’t have Hansen’s magic ice-shaving machine.

I have seen something called Hawaiian Ice in other markets. Puh-leeze. Hawaii has about as much business in the shaved ice business as Seattle has in the coffee business. Do these things happen because the product is superior, or because there is a promoter involved?   

For those of you who really like to possess the preparation process from start to finish, the Italians have a wonderful classification of ices they call “granita.” Essentially granita is a sweetened ice sometimes used with dessert and often enjoyed as a palate cleanser midway through a meal. Be forewarned, making granita is a labor-intensive effort because it has to be raked every thirty minutes or so during the freezing process.

Determine what your granita recipe will be, and I’ll have a suggestion as to where you can start your granita adventure a little bit later on, then pour it into a wide, shallow pan, say a 9” x 13” baking pan or dish. If you go the dish route, just be certain the dish is freezer-safe.

Put the pan in the freezer for about an hour. It will begin to freeze around the edges first. Take the pan out of the freezer and with a fork, rake the crystals. Stick the pan back in the freezer. Then about every thirty minutes, repeat, until the entire mixture is icy and frozen. When you serve granita, you have to assure it will not sit out very long as it melts very quickly.

Here again, my thought is to make the base liquor and head over a couple of blocks to your neighborhood sno-ball stand.

Okay, now for a few suggestions, and you can blend these recipes into the granita preparation as noted above, just allow for longer freezing times – or you can let Hansen’s machine do the heavy lifting.

Blood Orange Vodka
3 ½ cups freshly squeezed blood orange juice (about 12-14 oranges)
¼ cup vodka  (maybe more depending on your taste)

Black Russian
4 cups strongly brewed coffee, hot
1 ¼ cups light brown sugar
3 tablespoons vodka
1 tablespoon Kahlua
(obviously if you wish, more alcohol can be used)

Whisk the brown sugar into the hot coffee until dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Stir in vodka and Kahlua.

Sweet Shiraz
1 cup water
¾ cup sugar
Zest from 1 large orange
3 cups shiraz

Mix all ingredients except the wine in a medium-sized pot. Heat to a boil until sugar is completely dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Add shiraz.

St. Germaine and Limoncello
3 cups water
1 cup sugar
Zest of 1 large lemon
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons St. Germaine
1 tablespoon Limoncello
Lemon twist

Place water and sugar in pot. Bring to a boil. Whisk until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon zest. Cool to room temperature. Strain.

Stir in lemon juice, St. Germaine and Liminocello.

You can see that there are many opportunities to combine interesting ingredients which won’t be diluted with all the ice you will be adding. And overwhelming the recipe with large infusions of alcohol will not necessarily make for a better drink. Same rule as in making cocktails. Stay in balance.

More ideas, like the ones here, are available in a new volume, Slushed!, just released from author Jessie Cross, published by Adams Media. Over 150 recipes based on frozen treats and alcohol. Fun.

No use fighting it or complaining about it. Summer is here. Best you can do is make it as comfortable an experience as possible. Hope this helps.

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