Tiny Ice TikTok is both impractical and attractive

I remember the first time I saw them: dozens of tiny, perfect squares, their sharp lines pressed against the inside of a glass that they filled generously to the brim. The squares were made of brown iced coffee and covered with oat milk, an iced coffee “trick” from TikTok that, on closer inspection, is not a gimmick at all. But that doesn’t matter. It was majestic, a kind of goofball for Bauhaus heads: ordered, structured.

I don’t know how many “little ice cube” videos they exist on TikTok today, but it’s not enough. The platform seems to have discovered the silicone molds used to make the perfect half-inch by half-inch squares (and their circular brethren). around 2020. Since then, I have seen them form the base of cocktails, add flair to juices, soft drinks, teas. I have seen the molds filled with matcha, coffee, milk and all kinds of unidentified Technicolor liquids. I’ve seen people eat them. with to spooneither cube by cube like popcorn. I delight in its uniformity, but also in its impracticality.

Each mold makes 160 ice cubes. If I were better at math, I could tell you how many of these 160-cube trays would equal, by volume, a single 15-cube Tovolo ice cube tray. Oh, I can’t. What I can tell you, with confidence, is that for me, nothing about the charm of the tiny cube has anything to do with function. Camper English, one of the world’s leading experts on frozen cocktails, whose next book is appropriately titled the ice bookis blunt on this point: “They are mostly useless as ice cubes and hard to get out of the trays.” (Watching people struggle to get the cubes out of the trays it’s also a fun little ice TikTok subgenre I might add).

English remembers first seeing tiny ice on The Aviary Cocktail Bookwhich was released in 2018.

@cafejenn dropped ice everywhere but the show must go on ✨ #miniicecubes #icedlatte #homecafe #coffeetime #아이스라떼 ♬ Chopin Nocturne No. 2 Piano Mono – moshimo sound design

The book features a memorable drink called zombie panda, which is packed with tiny spherical ice cubes made with raspberry liqueur, citric acid, syrup and water. It looks like a ghostly lava lamp. “I had never seen them before that,” says English. I should mention that the former bar manager of The Aviary, Micah Melton, argues for the utility of tiny ice as a flavor distributor: it melts faster than a typical 1-inch cube, and if you’re freezing something other than water, it can have the desired effect of changing the drink as you drink it.

But I find thinking about high-concept applications of cubes to be, quite frankly, insane. Its appeal is more ethereal. I feel a cosmic urge to grab them with both hands, show them off to no one in particular, and toss them on a table like a pile of loose diamonds. look at my treasure, one could say. But I will never do this; tiny ice belongs to TikTok, and in my mind, as a memory. English seems to understand what I’m talking about. “There’s something about them that makes you want to take them out, throw them away, and listen to them,” she says. “I feel they bring about a similar satisfaction to rolling a handful of dice or the sound of cereal hitting the bowl or tipping over a bucket full of loose change.” if you ask me imagining that satisfaction is where true satisfaction lies.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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