The ambiance of coffee shops has been sorely missed throughout the pandemic: the hiss of espresso steamers, click-clack of keyboards and soft jazz music, and satisfying clang of ice cubes being shaken and poured into a glass.
Thankfully, a semblance of this experience exists on TikTok through DrinkTok-a subsection of the popular video-driven social media app that focuses squarely on beverages. There’s color-changing butterfly pea tea, fishbowls filled with copious amounts of alcohol, and soothing latte videos. The one thing that seems to connect all of DrinkTok are the ice cubes: tiny, translucent squares ubiquitous on the platform. Whether it’s a boba drink, latte, tea, or sparkling soda, mini ice cubes permeate the space.
It’s unclear where exactly the mini ice trend began, but to Marlene Becerril, who mixes her drinks as @cafesessions, the cubes are a necessary component when crafting a relaxing drink video. “It’s the ASMR of mini ice cubes-the noise that it brings [provides] some sort of peace,” she explains. “I love it.”
Becerril began crafting drinks at home during the pandemic because all of her favorite coffee shops were closed. It was an attempt to save money-especially while finishing up her final year of college. When one of her professors in a public relations class gave out an assignment to begin a micro-influencer account, she decided to focus on the drinks she was already making.
“I started following a lot of accounts that also were in the same niche as me and noticed that they all use mini ice cubes and I was like, ‘Well, I’m over here using just the regular ice cubes. What’s the difference?'” She concluded that both the ASMR and visual qualities of the ice cubes were alluring, and decided to invest in a mold for mini ice cubes. Her TikTok has now reached over 50,000 followers with close to 500,000 likes-and only continues to grow.
Saraa Sainkhuu, who operates under the moniker @ohfoursvn, also created her drink-themed TikTok during the pandemic. “Before the pandemic, I would usually go out and take pictures. But I stopped taking pictures because there was nothing to photograph anymore,” she explains. Desperate for a creative outlet, and using Korean home cafe videos as inspiration-calming videos on YouTube that share how to prepare popular Korean cafe beverages-she opened a TikTok account to document her own little home cafe. “It all started from there,” she says. “I don’t have any mixology experience or bartending background.”
Regardless, like Becerril, community and followers began forming around her work, looking to catch a glimpse of soothing coffee pours and the jangle of tiny ice cubes. Sainkhuu has nearly 300,000 followers and more than 3.5 million likes on all of her videos.
The irony of the mini ice cubes is that they’re not particularly enjoyable to drink. Yes, they can be fun to crunch on, and because they’re so small and plentiful, they can work to cool a drink down faster. That being said, they also melt quickly. “You’re drinking watered down drinks,” Sainkhuu says, laughing. “I use it for aesthetic purposes, really. I wouldn’t recommend it for iced drinks to be honest.” If mini ice cubes are a must, Sainkhuu suggests filling the molds with milk, matcha, or coffee to prevent watering down drinks.
But the aesthetics work. “People see it and are like, ‘Oh yes. I need to drink that,’ because of the mini ice cubes. Because if it was just regular ice, it wouldn’t do that,” Becceril says. “Especially with coffee because as soon as you pour in that milk, the milk tends to go through all the little cracks and they give it such a pleasing look.”
The tiny ice cubes continue to be prevalent throughout the app, but both Becerril and Sainkhuu have predictions on what will be the next most popular thing when it comes to the niche corner of the internet celebrating short form drink videos.
“The fruit ice cubes are something new I tried,” Sainkhuu says. “I thought about how to make my ice cubes interesting and I decided to cut up some fruits.” The fruits, especially colorful ones like diced strawberry, bits of kiwi, and dragonfruit are then suspended in the ice, functioning almost like a sculpture before being drowned in sparkling waters and fruit juice. Fruit ice cubes add color as well as flavor.
Becerril foresees more ice cube trays, but in different molds like teddy bears, dogs, hearts, and bows. “It’ll probably be an expensive trend because you would have to buy each different mold, and it probably would give you a few ice cubes per mold tray. But I’ve seen people use, like, heart ice cubes, flowers, doggies,” she says. “People tend to gravitate towards something they know and they recognize. So if you’re a dog lover and you see these TikTokers using dog ice cubes, it’s so much cuter.”
Whatever the case, both Sainkhuu and Becerril are excited to continue making beautiful drink videos, providing mini recipes for their audience, and be a restful corner of the internet-just like a pleasurable afternoon at a coffee shop.
The cold weather in most parts of Australia coinciding with EOFY celebrations is the closest thing that we’ll get to snowy Christmas vibes. And if you’re in dire need of some festive cheer after the first six months of 2023, grab your ugly sweater and head to your nearest Red Rooster for Xmas in July deals.
From June 29 – July 31, 2023, Red Rooster is serving up free food items, a chance to win $10,000 or one of 10 merch packs valued at $400 and other fun prizes. All you have to do is sign up as a Red Royalty member and spend $5 on at a location near you or online.
Each week there’ll be new delicious deals and prizes to win. The week one deals have already dropped and they’re looking pretty tasty. You can get access to them via your Red Royalty account. The more you purchase, the more chances you have to win.
Spoiler alert: you can get 10 chicken nuggets for free, right now. Brb running to Red Rooster.