Ring the bell, it's time for Last Call, where JK Grence, bartender at Shady's, serves up booze advice and recipes. Got a burning question for your bartender? Leave it in the comments and it might be answered in a future column.
It's happened to you. At least, I secretly hope it's happened to you. It's happened to me more than enough times. Friends are on their way over. While you're prepping some snacks for their arrival, you realize that the drinks you bought are still sitting on the counter. Your friends are due to arrive in five minutes. What are you going to do?
It's much too late to stick the drinks in the refrigerator. At this point, most people's first instinct is to bury them in ice in the freezer. That doesn't help as much as you like, it only shaves a couple of minutes off the fridge chilling time. And, there's the risk you might forget one or two bottles in the freezer. I don't know about you, but I'm not keen on cleaning frozen beer slush and shards of glass off everything in my freezer. Friends, this is where science comes in. There's not one, but two (literally) cool tricks that you can put together to get your drinks ice-cold in the blink of an eye.
Trick 1: Water Conducts Heat Faster Than Air If you want to quickly change the temperature of something, you're better off if you immerse it in liquid than if you leave it exposed to air (like you do in the freezer). After all, it takes an hour to roast a chicken in a 350° oven, but mere minutes to fry it in 350° oil. The same thing happens for chilling. Even though a 0° freezer is colder than 32° ice water, the ice water will chill your drink much faster.
Trick 2: Lower The Water Temperature Below Freezing The problem with ice water is that it can only go as low as 32°. If you want to chill your drinks extra-fast, you have to do something about that lower limit. The secret... is salt. Salty water has a lower freezing temperature than plain water, and will chill your drinks almost twice as fast.
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Start by putting what you're chilling into a container that leaves plenty of room. Add a layer of ice, then pour a generous layer of salt over the top. The type of salt doesn't matter; table salt, kosher salt, whatever you have laying around that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Keep alternating layers of ice and salt until you hit the top of the container. Then, pour in cold water. If you have chilled water in the fridge, use that; otherwise, ordinary tap water is OK. Then, all you have to do is wait about five to ten minutes, and you'll have perfectly chilled beer, wine, or soda.
BONUS FACT: Only Open Cold Soda! This just came to mind. Since it's related, I might as well spill the beans. You know how your 2-liter bottles of soda always go flat in a hurry? That's because you're opening them while they're still warm. Cold liquid holds a lot more carbon dioxide than warm liquid. So, when you open a warm 2-liter, all the carbon dioxide fizzes out before it has a chance to chill in the refrigerator. Get your soda cold before you open the bottle, and the bubbles will be good to the last glass.