July/August 2014

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Page 32 of 51 33 JULY/AUGUST 2014 | C ocktail ice is intensely scrutinized by some bar and restaurant operators and overlooked by others. But it's a key component with paying more attention to, especially considering current drink trends and ice options available today, from planks and spheres to pebbles and spears. Ice is as crucial a cocktail ingredient as the liquors or mixers, and should be an integral part of the drinks creation process, according to Micah Melton. "People are thinking craft everything—craft spirits, house-made syrups and bitters—and then to dump all of that onto a bad piece of ice seems like such a waste," says Melton, the chef de cuisine of cocktails for e Aviary in Chicago. e 130-seat cocktail bar's ice program is undeniably ambitious: e Aviary offers 27 varieties of ice, ranging from crushed to hand-cut shards to spheres made with the Japanese Taisin mold. But any operator looking to ramp up the quality and variety of ice can start by recognizing its significance. "Good ice can easily become an afterthought," notes Melton. "[Bartenders] taste the drink before it goes into the glass and it tastes good; they don't realize that bad-tasting ice or quickly melting ice can ruin a good drink fast." ICE, ICE BABY e logistical first step is purchasing a good quality ice machine, which Melton notes "can bail out any bar in terms of ice." Kold-Draft used to be the only game in town, but Hoshizaki is becoming a popular choice for its reliability, says Camper English, a cocktail writer and the force behind the cocktails-meets-science website Kold-Draft produces cubes a little larger in size than Hoshizaki (1-¼" vs. 1"), but English and some bartenders say Kold-Draft machines tend to need servicing. No matter the brand, quality ice machines produce dense, perfect cubes that keep cocktails chilled and look handsome in the glass. But certain types of ice may require that bartenders tweak their technique. "You have to account for volume to surface area," explains Michael Cerretani, beverage director for the 295-seat seasonal, farm-fresh restaurant Session Kitchen in Denver. High-quality machine cubes require more shaking and stirring, he notes. e Japanese hard-shake method is also known to get a drink icy cold, as is cracking the cubes before stirring or shaking, which produces more surface area. Large spheres and cubes have less surface area than their smaller counterparts, rendering slower dilution. ese are preferable for boozy drinks like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds, as well as spirits served on the rocks. SPHERES AND SPEARS Bourbon Steak in Washington, D.C., operated by the San Francisco-based Mina Group, offers 12 types of ice, including molds that produce spheres, 2" x 2" cubes, and spears. e 278- seat steakhouse also uses a Macallan Ice Baller, which, like the Taisin and Cocktail Kingdom's Professional Ice Ball Maker, makes perfect spheres. ese tools make for a great drink presentation, says head bartender Duane Sylvestre, but it takes a few minutes to produce each orb, so the process is time consuming. Sylvestre has noticed a growing trend in spear ice, those long, skinny rectangles that fit perfectly into a Collins glass. He uses either a 1-½" x 1-½" x 5" mold, or freezes several Kold-Draft cubes together to render spear ice. Bourbon Steak uses them in bottled cocktails such as the Susan Lucci ($15), with Maker's Mark 46 bourbon, Crème de Pêche, citrus and berries, and the Piso Mojito ($17), a crystal- clear variant with Bacardi Heritage rum, fresh mint, clarified lime, Fever Tree soda and sugar. e Aviary makes its spear ice by freezing water in the compartments of a rectangular tackle box, which is used for "Dealer's Choice" cocktails ($20 each) in its 16-seat basement speakeasy e Office. e actual cocktail glass becomes the mold for invert shard ice, which takes advantage of the "negative space" that would typically surround conventional ice in the glass. It works like this: A glass full of water is dropped into a super chiller, and removed before it freezes all the way through; the leftover water is discarded, and the ice takes on the form of the inside of the glass. Invert shard ice is used for Aviary drinks like the Turista ($18), with rum, Chinotto, coconut and Viriana China-China liqueur. CHILLING OUT Unique shapes, crystal-clear chunks and cut-to-order cubes are among the latest trends in cocktail ice By Kelly A. Magyarics

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