How long does it take to freeze vodka, and what cool things can I do with it?
March 6, 2009 4:13 AM   Subscribe

How long does it take to freeze vodka, and what can I do with it after that?

I've got a bottle of vodka here that I want to freeze — now, I know that vodka doesn't freeze in the conventional sense, but how long do I need to leave it in the freezer for before it goes as cold as it's going to get? It's a 70cl, 40% bottle of Ketel One, if that makes any difference. The freezer is a regular domestic one.

Then, once it's frozen, what can I do with it? I've got a carton of orange juice, which was my main plan, but if anyone has any smart ideas I'm all ears... I've heard of people getting coloured/fruit flavoured vodka with skittles, I guess that's the sort of thing I mean, any other ideas are fine.
posted by jaffacakerhubarb to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't think "freeze" means what you think it means.

First, according to WikiAnswers, the freezing point of vodka is about -17*F or or -27*C. If you can get a cold enough freezer, you can have solid frozen vodka. But your domestic freezer is not going to get cold enough to do it. Maybe a lab freezer?

Next, if you put your vodka in the freezer, it's going to drop to the temperature of the freezer--just like everything else in your freezer. I often keep my vodka in the freezer so that I can mix cocktails without ice. A full 750ml gets cold within about three or four hours.

Vodka from your freezer is just real cold vodka. It's not even a little bit different from warm vodka, other than it's cold. It's roughly identical to vodka with ice in it, except it's not being diluted by the water melting from the ice.

So, in short, you probably can't personally freeze your vodka. And if it's not really frozen, it's just cold vodka.
posted by Netzapper at 4:34 AM on March 6, 2009

As you probably know already, domestic freezers typically get down to about -20C and pure alcohol freezes at something like -115C. How long it will take to get yours down to -20C depends on your freezer, the shape of the bottle, how full your freezer is, etc. I'd guess in the region of 6-12 hours.

While I haven't frozen vodka before, I have frozen a mix of pure water and pure ethanol (I think it was a 30:70 mix of water:ethanol), and ended up with a weird slushy texture - tiny water ice crystals suspended in very cold ethanol. The texture was just right to fill a rubber glove and create a re-posable disembodied hand to keep in our lab's -80C freezer. Hijinks ensued.

Anyway, with care you can discard the water ice and keep the liquid alcohol, giving you a much stronger and probably more flavourless spirit. Instead of waiting dor the whole thing to freeze, check it every few hours and remove the floating ice crystals. This is called "freeze distillation" and is probably illegal where you live due to a mix of health concerns and (more importantly) taxes on alcohol production. Use with caution, as tasteless and unusually strong alcohol sounds like a recipe for accidental alcohol poisoning.

If you feel like trying some SCINECE!, get the very cold liquid and try using it to snap-freeze stuff. Water conducts heat much better than the equivalent volume of air (higher specific heat capacity), so anything dipped in cold alcohol -- bits of fruit, drips of already chilled water, etc -- might freeze quickly enough to be fun. Pure alcohol (or just >80% alcohol) mixed with dry ice can be used as a substitute for liquid nitrogen, as the dry ice will chill the alcohol to around -80C. This is much warmer than liquid N2, but easily cold enough to have all manner of slightly dangerous fun with.

NB: If you try this, remember that the cold ethanol conducts heat away from your skin much more efficiently than dry ice. You can handle dry ice with bare skin as long as you don't touch it for more than a couple of seconds (and beware getting wet skin frozen onto a chunk of dry ice), but this chilled ethanol will start to freeze your skin immediately. Wear non-absorbant and easily-removable gloves, cover your arms and wear some kind of eye protection.

Making fruit-flavoured spirits is easy - when I was in uni I bought some cheap, really terrible vodka and put it in a box with a roughly chopped pineapple and some sugar. After about a month in a kitchen cupboard we opened it up: some sort of filtration must have happened, as the pineapple chunks tasted of really terrible vodka and the vodka itself just tasted like pineapple juice. Awesome, but doesn't require freezing.

I imagine you'd be able to make a fruit sorbet fairly easily but just using your chilled vodka instead of fruit juice / water in a sorbet recipe. Texture might be a bit weird but it's worth a try.

The classic in my high-school and uni days was the vodka melon. For this you cut a melon in half and use a thin knife to poke holes in it. Pour vodka on the melon and into these holes / channels unit it won't absorb any more. Poke more holes, pour more vodka. Freeze the melon. The sugar and alcohol should keep the melon soft enough that you can poke yet more holes and pour more vodka; repeat until you're bored of doing this. Eventually you basically end up with a very alcoholic lemony mush. Remove from the freezer and hour or two before your party, drinking session or hearty breakfast to let it thaw a little. Then let people spoon chunks of it out: it should be fairly soft, very alcoholic and just taste of melon, with the low temperature and sugar disguising most of the alcoholic taste.

The final idea is one I've wanted to try for a while. For a party, freeze a load of shotglass-fuls of vodka, and just have fruit juices and mixers on your bar. People can take their own mix of fruit juices, then add a lump of chilled vodka slush to their drink instead of ice. It lets people control exactly how much they're drinking, cools the drinks and is just a fun idea I haven't seen anyone else try :D.
posted by metaBugs at 4:55 AM on March 6, 2009 [6 favorites]

It'll be as cold as it's going to get if you leave it overnight, if you back things like frozen peas around it it'll chill even faster.

Keep in mind that infusing the vodka with flavors will pretty much require it to be at room, maybe in the fridge. It will take a lot longer if your keep it at freezer temps.

That said, bacon, peppercorns (black pepper), and hot peppers are all things I've found guides for online and would be interested in trying and adding to mixed drinks.

Plus a shot of ice cold vodka is great on it's own.
posted by Science! at 4:56 AM on March 6, 2009

It'll take about 24 hours. It won't be some magical thing, it'll just be cold vodka. It's kind of nice to drink straight that way. If you want to flavour it with some nice herbs or some godawful day-glo candy, you'll have better luck steeping it warm before chilling it.
posted by Nelson at 5:03 AM on March 6, 2009

I think the "Skittles drink" you've heard of is actually just a cocktail that tastes a lot like Skittles. Equal parts Blue WKD, yellow Reef, and Smirnoff Ice if I remember correctly.

Domestic freezer temperature vodka does seem very slightly more viscous to me, a little more like oil than water consistency, which is cool to see. But apart from it being a bit nicer to drink, I don't think there's a lot you can do with it.
posted by lucidium at 5:06 AM on March 6, 2009

Shoot the rainbow.
posted by Science! at 5:20 AM on March 6, 2009

I think the "Skittles drink" you've heard of is actually just a cocktail that tastes a lot like Skittles. Equal parts Blue WKD, yellow Reef, and Smirnoff Ice if I remember correctly.

No, it really involves Skittles, and it's basically an "infusion" (although I'm loathe to use that term here). I've been tempted ever since I read that how-to. Of course, there are several cocktails that purport purport to taste like Skittles. (I've had the first one linked there. It's one of those "trick shots" that tastes nothing at all like its ingredients, but very much like its name.)
posted by Netzapper at 5:21 AM on March 6, 2009

For Skittles flavoured vodka, you mean this?

Freezing will not give your vodka any magical properties, it'll just be really cold and taste less like alcohol when taken straight. But it won't freeze solid in your home freezer, if that's what you're looking for.
posted by Simon Barclay at 5:23 AM on March 6, 2009

Freeze distillation is the traditional method of making apple brandy (applejack) here in the States, btw. You need either a deep freeze, or to live somewhere it gets cold to do it; the freezer on your refrigerator isn't going to cut it.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 5:25 AM on March 6, 2009

The classic in my high-school and uni days was the vodka melon

You can also do this with a watermelon, if you are in a place where a whole one is available this time of year.

Cut a disk of rind out of one end of the watermelon, giving it a flat base to stand on. Cut another disk from the end that is now on top, and remove a conical piece of flesh from the inside. Fill with vodka, and leave to stand for several hours in the refrigerator.
posted by ghost of a past number at 6:33 AM on March 6, 2009

Would freeze-distilled vodka be any better than or different from Everclear? I don't understand why someone would go to that much trouble when he could get the finished product ready-made (and cheaper).
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:16 AM on March 6, 2009

Best answer: Kettle One is an awfully nice vodka to be infusing with Skittles. If you want to make some bizarre concoction, it'd be a lot more economical to get a cheaper bottle of vodka, because once you put candy in it, it's all gonna taste the same.

I think your ice-cold Kettle One would serve you better in a vodka martini.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 7:32 AM on March 6, 2009

Best answer: If you want a colorful vodka drink that actually, you know, tastes good, throw away the fucking candy and get some raspberries. Put those in the bottle. (You'll have to make room by drinking some of the vodka first.) Put the bottle in the windowsill for a few days. You can invert the bottle every once in a while if you want to see the lovely color infusing into the drink, but resist the urge to shake. When you feel like it's done (not less than a day, not more than a week, not an exact science) strain out the now colorless and nasty berries and throw them away. Resist the temptation to eat one, because it will taste awful. Chill your infused vodka and sip it straight.

Absolut is easiest because it has the widest bottle neck, but any halfway decent vodka will do.

You can do this with just about any fruit, peppers, ginger, basically anything which has a flavor soluble in alcohol. Just please don't do it with skittles, that's just nasty.
posted by ook at 8:35 AM on March 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Vodka will freeze in the conventional sense if you get it cold enough.

Your vodka will freeze at about -40°C/-40°F (Check this out for a discussion on frozen vodka).

If you want to freeze your vodka solid you could use dry ice (−79°C/−110°F). Be very careful with dry ice and solid frozen vodka.
posted by gregr at 9:13 AM on March 6, 2009

ook - why shouldn't we shake vodka with fruit in it? Is this just to avoid making the fruit disintegrate and hard to remove, or some more esoteric reason?
posted by metaBugs at 10:22 AM on March 6, 2009

On the cold thing, if you have some free space in your freezer; I got the idea (mythbusters?) in my head to dissolve some salt in a large plastic Tupperware bowl filled with water. I just kept pouring salt in and stirring until no more salt would dissolve. Then I stuck this in my freezer. The salt kept the water from freezing. The result, very very cold water. I used this to quick chill sodas (in 4 minutes a unopened can of mt dew would have ice form inside) by just placing items in this Tupperware. I think in 30 minutes I had vodka (only the bottom half of the bottle would fit) cold enough that it was uncomfortable to drink.
posted by syntheticfaith at 10:41 AM on March 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is this just to avoid making the fruit disintegrate and hard to remove

Yeah, that.
posted by ook at 11:19 AM on March 6, 2009

Homer: Got any of that beer that has candy floating in it? You know, Skittlebrau?
Apu: Such a beer does not exist, sir. I think you must have dreamed it.
Homer: Oh. Well, then just give me a six-pack and a couple of bags of Skittles.
posted by LilBucner at 11:55 AM on March 6, 2009

Response by poster: Apologies for being vague — I meant freeze as in get as cold as it's going to get. I should have made that more clear in my original question, so sorry for encouraging mad scientist digressions, though they were interesting to read.

So I guess the consensus is about 24 hours, which makes sense. I like the raspberries idea, and I will avoid perverting a rather nice bottle of vodka with skittles. It just looked cool, which I think was the extent of my thinking there. I wanted to go for frozen or chilled vodka because Ketel One, Belvedere and Grey Goose don't taste that great at room temperature, and the quickest way to alleviate nasty tasting things is to mix them. I'm going to go for the raspberry trick mentioned and possibly just a good old twist of lemon. I shall most likely report back from the floor!

Thanks for all the replies so far; if anyone has any more suggestions then by all means keep them coming! :)
posted by jaffacakerhubarb at 2:45 PM on March 6, 2009

MrMoonPie writes "Would freeze-distilled vodka be any better than or different from Everclear? I don't understand why someone would go to that much trouble when he could get the finished product ready-made (and cheaper)."

Everclear may not be available ready made, it isn't in my province.
posted by Mitheral at 1:28 AM on March 7, 2009

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