What Makes Ice so Cool

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Good things happen when ice has a starring role in a cocktail program. Each drink is chilled to its spirit-appropriate temperature. Subtle flavors from the alcohol and mixers come alive.

 

CUSTOMERS TAKE NOTICE, AND RIGHTLY SO. CRAFT ICE COMPLETES AN ARTFUL COCKTAIL EXPERIENCE THAT DESERVES ATTENTION. 

 

Did We Just Call Ice “Art”? We Did.

Sometimes beauty is revealed in the most common objects. But craft ice is not just about looks. For serious drink connoisseurs, ice can make the difference between a perfectly chilled concoction and a watery letdown. How quickly the ice melts, as well as how much dissolves, is greatly affected by its size and shape. Clarity counts too. So choosing the right ice requires a certain type of skill.

 

Chris Bostick, co-owner of popular Austin restaurant Half Step, treats ice as he would any other quality menu item.

 

“If we leave a steak on a stove for too long, it’s going to burn. If we keep a cocktail on ice for too long, it’ll melt. If we have control over the outcome of the ice, we can control the quality of the drink.” – Chris Bostick, Eater Magazine

 

At cocktail bar Small Victory, also in Austin, the ice is crafted to fit the glass and the drink. They make the ice themselves in their own Ice Room, where they take purified water and transform it into beautifully clear ice that is then carved and shaped appropriately. The process can take days, but it’s worth it.

 

Meanwhile, in New York, Richard Boccato, a bartender by trade, was the first in the world to open a cocktail bar that produced and carved its own blocks of ice. After that, he became co-owner of Hundredweight, which produces 300-pound blocks of ice that are carved up, sometimes with chain saws, into proper shapes and sizes and shipped off to other bars and restaurants.

 

Many other ice factories, such as The Ice Doctor in Gainesville, Florida, now supply custom-designed shapes that perfectly complement the cocktail, the glass and even the personality of the venue where it’s served. In fact, most major cities now have dedicated ice vendors who manufacture and shape craft ice for restaurants and bars. And the savviest of bartenders continue to find imaginative ways to use it (color it, flavor it, use it as garnish, etc.).

 

The Cold Hard Truth

What many ice enthusiasts want most, however, is just the right ice served in the right glass at the right time. That means cocktails best served in a tall rocks glass get a spear or rectangular block. Those that shine in a small glass get one giant cube or maybe a sphere (although many argue that spheres are more work than they’re worth).

 

Either way, the greater surface area of these ice shapes allows the bartender to chill out the drink without watering it down—a cold, hard win-win.