On the origin of ice trays
That cube in your cocktail is a product of evolution.
The original drink chillers came from frozen lakes, harvested and delivered to families whose offspring would someday mold it into tiny dinosaurs. Here are the highlights of its trip:
(1) THE FUTURE is clear
Transparent ice takes time. You either carve the clear center of a huge block or use insulation to slowly solidify so the water comes out crystal.
(2) 2000s: Going soft
Slick silicone has a low coefficient of friction and a pliable nature. Both let you create otherwise impossible-to-release shapes with ease.
(3) 1980s: Topping it
Modern plastics don’t crack as easily as the old stuff, but the genius award goes to lidded trays: You can stack them before the water sets.
(4) 1960s: Plastics
Injection-molded polymers changed every industry, ice included. Trays graduated from skin-chilling metal to twistable polypropylene and polyethylene.
(5) 1930s: DIY Cubes
With the advent of refrigeration, you could freeze your own ice in aluminum trays; the metal warmed as it left the freezer, releasing cubes easily.
(6) MID-19TH CENTURY: Early Ancestors
Antique solid water came as giant blocks to chill your insulated icebox. For a frosty sarsaparilla, you’d chip the ol’ block with a sharp pick.
Want to read an article that’s just 47 amazing novelty ice cube trays? Right this way.
This article was originally published in the March/April 2017 issue of Popular Science.