Last summer, my son, who loves water balloons, as any kid does, returned home from the park with one un-bursted water ballon in his hand. For reasons only known to the kid mind, he wanted to put it in the freezer, "to see what happens." Seeking the path of least resistance, as parents often do, I let him. And forgot about it.
The next day I was sitting at the dinner table, relaxing after a fine repast. I don't remember if I had an Old Fashioned in my hand, but I think I did. My son said, "Let's see the water balloon!" He retrieved the frozen orb encased in pink plastic from the freezer. It was hard as a rock and vaguely oval-shaped. He was pleased as punch. Then the rubber of the balloon snapped and tore open. We peeled it away. Inside was a beautiful, smooth planet of ice, lined with fine creases. About the right size for an Old Fashioned glass. I looked at my wife, whom I think had the same idea I had at the same time.
You see, I had recently penned an article for Time Out New York about spherical ice. The bar PDT in Manhattan had purchased a Taisin Japanese ice press. The Taisin uses the natural forces of gravity and temperature to turn frozen chunks of ice into perfect spheres. Those globes look mighty nice at the bottom of a sipping drink and will keep you Old Fashioned or whatever cool until the cows come home. Problem is: the device costs a couple thou. A journalist does not typically possess a stray 2 Gs to drop on an ice gadget. Nor can he afford a Kold-Draft ice machine.
I looked at my son's experiment and saw the answers to all my ice problems. I went to the corner store and bought a packet of water balloons. (Fifty for 50 cents.) I filled them slowly with water, varying the size and shape as best as I could, placed them in a bowl and put the bowl in the freezer. The next day, I had beautiful, smooth, substantial ice balls, perfectly suited for rocks glasses, slow-melted and aesthetically pleasing. And for a penny a piece. It was a miracle of sorts. I have never stopped making my water-balloon ice since.
And, no, they don't taste faintly of rubber or latex. They taste like ice.
Until recently, I thought I was alone in this genius conception, and I kept the secret to myself. But the other day I discovered that San Francisco-based cocktail journo Camper English has actually come up with the idea independently and beat me to the post. (That's a picture of his frozen balloons, looking almost exactly like mine.) Damn his eyes! Still, I like to think, however, that I'm the first east coast scribbler to hatch the notion.