Your friends will be at your house within an hour, and you just got home with the beer and soda that has been sitting in your hot car since your lunch-hour shopping run to the grocery. You don’t have room for the drinks in your frig because the party food platters are there. You bought big bags of ice on your way home, so you can dump the ice over the drinks after you put them in your cooler. But that is still not your perfect solution. What could help you get these beverages cold in a hurry for the pleasure of your guests?
Putting ice in cups of drink will just melt the ice too fast and dilutes your drink. You want to cool the drinks before they are poured into cups. Pieces of ice around beverage containers in a cooler do not provide anywhere near as much complete surface contact as a liquid does. Much of the cans’ or bottles’ surface will be untouched by the ice in the cooler. A liquid is more efficient at transferring the warmer molecules away from the surface of the beer bottle than solid ice.
So… for cooling party drinks quickly, you create a salty ice bath. Salt does not actually make water colder, but it will suppress the freezing point of water. That means water can become much colder and retain that temperature without freezing. If no salt were added, the coldest the water would reach would be 32 degrees. By adding salt, water can get as low as minus six degrees. This means items submerged in a salty ice bath will get colder much more quickly.
Here’s what you do–fill your cooler (or any waterproof container large enough to hold your drinks and ice) halfway with ice. Add your beverages and add more ice, until they are covered by ice. Then add water until the ice is submerged. Mix in one-half to one cup of rock salt or regular table salt per ten-pound bag of ice to suppress the freezing point of the water, After ten minutes or more, the beverages should be icy cold.
You need approximately 10 pounds of ice to chill 12 bottles. A 20-quart cooler holds 35 to 50 bottles, depending on their size, with two to three bags of ice, and can even be used to chill 2-liter bottles standing up, When the cans are icy cold, take them out of the cold mixture and give them a quick rinse in plain tap water to keep the salty taste from creeping into your drinks.
For your next party, in order to avoid this problem, try to remember to buy your drinks early and put them in your refrigerator or large cooler with ice well in advance of party time. Keeping your drinks cool before the party makes it much easier to get them even cooler just before the guests arrive.
Put water bottles in your freezer overnight and then let them thaw in your cooler, They can also serve as ice to keep your other drinks cold in the cooler.
If you are expecting a small group of guests, you can wrap individual bottles of drink in wet paper towels and stash them in the freezer for a few minutes, so they will be really cold upon your friends’ arrival.