By Edward Washington
Who would have thought that all those years ago Vanilla Ice was onto something? Ice, baby – it’s all about ice these days in the cocktail world. And heaven help you if your bar’s ice isn’t pure, completely pristine in appearance and can’t sit in a glass for at least four hours without melting.
Save from visiting the Antarctic yourself and carving out a huge chunk of pre-history glacial water that’s been frozen since before the word ‘time’ meant anything, you can actually have fantastic ice in your bar – without the risk of frostbite, falling into a crevice or discovering that Polar bears really do eat humans.
“Quality ice machines speak volumes to your guests as to how serious you are about providing the best possible serve in all areas of your operation.” Jason Crawley, Mixxit Creative Director.
“The ‘new ice age’ is a definable trend,” says Mixxit Creative Director Jason Crawley. It’s not just about the frozen water either as the push toward better quality ice has, in some minds, enhanced bartending techniques, philosophies and in some cases social drinking trends.
“Ice is not just niche bartender activity, it has many forms, like triple frozen ice cubes, huge ice blocks, spheres and diamonds,” Crawley states. The latter trends owing to a rise in popularity, and use, of bartender tools like the Japanese ice saws. “To some extent, [the ice trend] has even led to some heightened consumer demand for single malts being served with it.”
Quality machine ice
While not all venues have the luxury of prep time or quantity control to enable the joys of ‘thrice frozen ice’, they can have high quality machine ice if that’s what they’re after.
Lotus in Sydney’s Potts Point has been a favourite on the bespoke cocktail scene for almost a decade and the team strives for perfection with whatever they do.
“We do use Manitowoc ice machine both at Lotus and at MsG’s,” says bar manager Petr Dvoracek. “The quality of the ice is incomparable with old machines we use to have. Dvoracek puts the quality down to the bigger ice cubes it produces and their density (which is great for stirred cocktails). “You can chill a Martini down a lot more without the adverse effect of diluting it to much.”
“Aesthetics in a cocktail means more than just the garnish, so start serving your drinks with the best ice possible.”
For a venue that wants to take the ‘best serve’ strategy to their drink offerings, a good quality ice machine will give:
- Bigger ice cubes
- Ice cubes with more density
- Ice that dilutes less quickly
- Ice that is symmetric and clear
The inside carve on ice diamonds
Perhaps best popularised by Hidetsugu Ueno at High Five bar in Ginza, ice diamonds are a great way to serve dark spirits on the ‘rock’. The inspiration came while he was at Star Bar, as he and the owner looked at the light reflections coming of an Old Fashioned glass. Now he carves them from a small square block of ice for each required drink and says “It takes me about 2 minutes to 2 minutes 30. It’s easy.”
*Use a good quality ice carver/ knife and have a re-usable chux cloth on hand to hold the ice while you carve.