The ubiquitous ice cube, glorified at best, misunderstood and misused at worst. This simple item can have the most profound effect on a drink, both alcoholic and non, for the consumer and your bottom line!
My first true Ice epiphany came in the mid 90’s when working in Japan at the Four Season Chinsan-So in Tokyo. The Bar, as it was so aptly called, was a respite for both Hotel Guests and the city’s business elite and opened at 5pm. Popping in before opening to check on the set up, I was mesmerized as the bartender of some years was hand carving baseball-sized spheres from large squares of perfectly clear ice. Impressive enough until it was placed on the mouth of a luxurious, crystal rock glass only to slowly slide to the base, a perfect fit and all by hand. The show warranted if not demanded a quality Whisky on Ice even if not a Whisky drinker.
Some years later a different Ice experience at the Four Seasons Singapore where Ice Cubes were made from coffee or tea for the popular iced-versions of those drinks. Placed in the glass at the table with the cold coffee or tea poured from a decanter added to the show. I’m still of two minds if the popularity of those drinks was due to the hot & humid Singapore climate or the uniqueness yet simplicity of the experience.
Despite these 90’s experiences it took another 10 or so years for the ice craze to become bar mainstream. And yet, to this day, I’ve never seen the coffee or tea ice cubes again despite their effectiveness in ensuring a consistently concentrated cold beverage.
So what do we need to know? Clear ice is cool, right? As are oversize ice cubes and those formed to a shape for effect such as long cuboids for highball glasses. But it’s more than just looks, there’s a science behind these modern creations. The more ice, the cooler the drink and thus the slower the ice melts which, of course, is great for cocktails. In the case of large cubes, the larger the surface area of a cube, the slower it melts, which means less dilution, great for neat spirits.
Clear as Ice:
The cloudiness of ice is a sign of impurities and air trapped within the cube. Creation of clear ice is a fairly simple process. Whether by machine or in a suitable mould in your freezer the slowing of the freezing process removes these impurities leaving the ice clear. If creating your own clear cubes, the use of filtered and boiled water will assist the process.
Tip of the Ice:
Our business remains about experiences and showmanship in its many forms. Simply elevating your Ice experience (a small cost to shoulder) can allow you to put a premium on your drinks as well as creates something, dare I say it, Instagram-able and driving your marketing effort. Who would say no to either of those?
Apart from the referenced coffee or tea ice cubes, try infusing with bitters and garnishes or imbedding citrus fruit, berries, edible flowers or herbs into the ice. If doing so, ensure the item is wedged so that when freezing it remains fully in the cube. Starting with hot water and allowing it to cool before freezing allows for flavours of the ingredient to be infused. For celebrations try shapes, numbers for birthdays or hearts for weddings.
Putting it on Ice:
Depending on your volume needs, it may be cost effective to buy ice from a specialist ice supplier within your location. Most will provide a range of shapes from large spheres and cuboids suitable for different sized highballs. If your volume need is sufficient and one size can fit all, look at the likes of Hoshizaki https://www.hoshizakiamerica.com/specialty-ice/ for their specialty clear ice makers. For small bars (or dare I say it, home use) consider buying appropriate moulds and creating your own. Try brands such as Wintersmiths https://www.wintersmiths.com/ or True Cubes https://www.truecubes.com/ There are some silicon ice moulds readily available in the market that do a satisfactory job (although not creating fully clear ice), make sure you get the versions with a silicon lid which helps to slow the freezing process thus creating a clearer result.
No matter which Ice-capade you decide to follow, ditch those mass produced ice nuggets and take the plunge into an icy future as any cost pain may be instant but the long term financial gains will be ice-standing.
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