Frozen assets: Ice in the cocktail industry

March 25, 2017 01:00 PM

Unless you choose to drink your spirit neat, you are likely incorporating some form of ice into your drink.  Although not a terribly dated practice, today ice plays such a key role in many cocktails. Yet it was only two centuries ago that the concept of ice in beverages become a possibility and for almost another century it was a luxury made accessible by an ice harvester shipping heavy blocks of ice carved from ponds in far away climates. 

In the early 1800s a man named Frederic Tudor who, drinking a cold beverage during the winter in Boston, joked about how envious has fellow colonists in the West Indies would be if they knew of his beverage. An ambitious entrepreneur, he would eventually make this vision a reality. Touted as the “Ice King,” Tudor carved blocks of ice from lakes in the Boston area and shipped them as far as India.  Although he failed many times in the process, he persevered knowing that if he could teach the world the beauty of a cold drink, he could turn a profit. By the time of his death in 1864, he had a monopoly on the ice business around the globe and died a wealthy man.

Still a more than $ 2.5 billion industry annually, once the home icebox and freezer made the process of manufacturing and storing ice simple and affordable, ice quickly became taken for granted. However, as today’s cocktail bars emphasize greater detail than ever, as well as revert back to history as often as possible, ice is becoming a star again. Craft ice companies around the country have started to slowly emerge, bringing top quality ice to some of the best cocktail bars in the country.  

While some might just think it’s frozen water, it’s truly a labor of love that creates crystal clear block ice or those perfect spheres you see in a classic Old-Fashioned.  At Mixology Ice, Miami’s go-to for quality ice, creating the best product for your cocktail starts with a four-step filtration process that purifies the water not only to help achieve a crystal clear finish, but also to remove any impurities or flavors that can affect your drink. Because roughly 30% of the volume of a shaken cocktail is made up by the water of melted ice and 20% or more in a stirred cocktail on a spirit on the rocks, having clean, clear water is paramount.  

Additionally water is slowly frozen over five days using Clinebell machines that freeze the water from the bottom up, all the while constantly moving the 300 pound block so that air is unable to become trapped thereby producing dense, crystal clear ice you can see through. This is not only desirable aesthetically but dense ice also creates colder ice, and ice that will keep your drink colder, longer while melting more slowly thereby producing less dilution; another ideal choice for a fine spirit on the rock or a cocktail already stirred or shaken to the perfect dilution to not continue to water down further.

Want to try it at home? While you probably won’t get them crystal clear, silicone ice molds will do the trick in a pinch for everyday use from the home freezer.  Foodkick, a same day food and alcohol delivery company servicing greater New York, offers two-inch cubes perfect for entertaining or storing for future use.

About the Author

Hillary Choo is an award-winning mixologist, brand ambassador and former bartender. Hillary has received multiple recognitions, most recently Top Ten Mixologists in Miami by The Miami New Times in 2013 and Bartender of the Year Miami by Eater. Hillary is Portfolio Ambassador Miami for Bacardi USA. Follow Instagram at HillaryChoo. @ohillaryo