Breaking Down the Ice
Ice is becoming more than just a frozen quantity of water in a glass that cools down your cocktail. Every ingredient in craft cocktails is being elevated, triggering the implementation of ice programs into bars to elevate the craft cocktail. Ice is now being chipped, flamed, smoked, crushed, cubed, flavored and sphered and is the new focus of many drinks and one of the biggest accessory that bartenders use to jazz up a cocktail. This trend started with big cubes then continued to different shapes and now bartenders are using different techniques to really wow customers. However, one negative to enhancing cocktails this way is the added expense to customers. The more specialty the ice gets, the more expensive the cocktail gets.
Popular Ice trends
Some of the ice trends that are being implementing into bar programs across the country include:
Specialty cubes: Normal ice is frozen too quickly which leads to a cloudy and unclear ice that also melts too fast. Specialty ice tends to melt slower which helps cool the drink while not diluting it. These cubes are being made at bars using high quality molds and distilled water to eliminate the impurities and bubbles that cloud the regular ice cube.
Ice blocks: Some bars are opting for big ice blocks so that they can chisel down the ice themselves to create and customize different ice options based on the cocktails that are being offered. Chiseling the ice on site gives bartenders the creativity and flexibility to complement craft cocktails that are being ordered by the guests. This type of customization makes guests excited and offers a new twist to their handcrafted cocktail. It also enhances the guests' experience because at bars like the Lui Bar in Melbourne, Australia ice is chiseled on demand for cocktails so guests can watch the bartender breakdown the ice which adds an entertainment element.
Infused ice cubes: Infusing ice is a perfect way to add flavor to a cocktail instead of diluting it with a traditional ice cube. Pidgin Restaurant in Vancouver, BC infuses a sphere ice cube with coffee to enhance their classic Negroni cocktail. The customer tastes one drink at the beginning then the flavor changes as the ice sphere melts.
The Ice at Ballo Italian
Ballo Italian in Connecticut offers two different cocktails accessorized with infused ice spheres. These frozen spheres not only cool down the drink but enhance the flavor of the drink as it melts. The first drink, Ball Limonata is the signature cocktail and the state cocktail of Connecticut according to BuzzFeed. This summertime concoction is made with vodka, San Pellegrino Limonata, and a frozen sphere of 100 percent blood orange juice from Sicily, Italy.
The second drink that is offered at Ballo Italian is a fabulous summer tea cocktail. It contains tea that is sweetened with a natural elderflower syrup, Van Gogh Peach Vodka, and an ice sphere infused with a mixture of peach puree and mint.
I asked Ballo Italian about the ice spheres and they said, “our guests get such a kick out of the frozen spheres, it’s unique, not complicated and just plain fun.”
Where to Order Already Prepared Specialty Ice and Supplies
There are also ways that venues can order specialty ice that is already made. One company located outside of Seattle, WA called Creative Ice supplies some bars and restaurants with fun and unique ice solutions. They use a filtering system that makes their ice high quality and it has a superior clarity. Some of the options available include slow melting spheres, spheres on frozen stir sticks, classic cubes, diamond cubes, and flavored core spheres that can be filled with your own infused syrup and will slowly drip through the sphere to infuse your cocktail. Other unique products include ice beer mugs and ice shot glasses.
The craft cocktail scene is gaining more and more popularity by handcrafting every ingredient in the cocktail. This includes handcrafting artisanal ice through specialty ice, ice blocks, infused ice, or simply ordering pre-made ice from ice vendors. Bars are taking this trend and enhancing their bar program to meet customer demand for top tier craft cocktails.
What are your favorite ice trends in cocktails?