As a former bar back at Connecticut-based tequila and taco bar, Bar Taco, one of my labors was to scoop out – and inspect – ice cubes. Each side and angle of the ice squares had to conform to company policy – no proof of chipping, scraping or “soft edges.” Failure to meet those standards resulted in discarding the ice cube, or it would be later dropped into an employee’s drink during his or her break so nothing went to waste.
The moral of the story is this: a bar that sells more premium spirits and cocktails, the chances of the ice cube coordinating accordingly are probable. In fact, there’s even a company based in D.C. that crafts and distributes its hand-cut ice to local bars, especially Second State (opened in October 2014).
Compromising a majority of any cocktail, ice is the bartender’s most needed ingredient before the spirit and glass themselves. And, obviously, nearly all cocktails refuse to be crafted without the solid state of matter. So to keep a bar stocked in ice, cocktail prices are quietly and indirectly bumped without an obvious up-charge from the ice. Or, in Second State’s case, they’re likely to charge an extra 60 cents to $1 for they usage of premium ice.
According to Esquire, who so happens to have a program on their T.V. network called “Best Bars in America,” ice shapes need certain pairings for a more aesthetically pleasing cocktail:
• Big cubes (1.25″ x 1.25″) for shaking and stirring.
• Blocks to be broken down into smaller pieces: up to 300-lb slabs, harvested from a Clinebell machine.
• Large cubes to serve in drinks, mostly those prepared in old-fashioned glasses.
• Rods to serve in drinks, mostly those prepared in Collins glasses.
• Spheres to serve in high-end spirits or fancy cocktails, usually in old-fashioned glasses.
• Pebbles to serve in cobblers and swizzles. Made by a Scotsman ice machine.
• Crushed to serve in juleps.
I don’t know if Dale DeGroff – the mastermind behind the cocktail – cherishes or opposes the idea of cocktail ice sculpting for a scientifically better drink, but if you’re willing to throw in another George Washington into your bar tab to experience the “diamonds of the ice-making industry,” then ice don’t see a problem with spoiling yourself…with artisanal ice.
Although Batman villain, Mr. Freeze, may not have any complaints to file.