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Eight Reasons Why Good Ice Makes Better Cocktails

Three ice cube sizes.
Three ice cube sizes.

[Photos: Matthew Kang]

It was only a few years ago that ice in a glass was virtually an afterthought. Wells were filled with dripping wet ice that diluted drinks of their flavor. These days, large scale cubes are plentiful, and even casual bars are slipping in king-size rocks for Old Fashioneds. Michel Dozois of Névé likes to think he was part of that trend. As bartenders fill up silicon molds with king cubes, Dozois still sees a lot of room for improvement in the world of ice as concerns cocktails. Here now, the barman chats with Eater about the effect of ice in cocktails, constructing a few simple concoctions using Névé ice.

1) Quality ice means less dilution, which means better tasting cocktails. Dozois argues that wet ice and standard ice, even Kold-Draft machines that produce decently solid one inch cubes, result in more dilution. These machines might make ice that dilutes drinks by as low as 60%, but a hard cube from chiseled ice might only dilute by 30%.

2) Just because ice is clear doesn't mean it's good. These days many people are obsessed with the clarity of ice. But what's more important is the quality of the water, which should be flavorless and pure.

3) Silicon molds impart flavor and create shapes that aren't ideal for shaking. The sharp edges of the king cubes and other ice makers like Kold-Draft break into shards and tend to dilute drinks. Plus, no matter what you do to clean the silicon molds, it still gives off a flavor to the ice.

4) Rounded shaking cubes work better to add froth and texture to drinks. When a shaking cube is rounded off instead of sharp edged, it volleys back and forth, acting like a piston inside the shaker that pounds the mixture. The result is things like Ramos Gin Fizzes that have a velvety smoothness to them.

5) Old Fashioneds or other stirred cocktails get more balance between sugar and alcohol with good ice. It's harder to over stir an Old Fashioned made with a very solid rock of ice.

6) Less water consumed means more drinks likely ordered. Bartenders win with more drinks ordered (more tips), bar owners get more profit. But for guests, that means better, stronger tasting drinks.

7) Ice from machines isn't necessarily "free." It require high capital investment and tends to break easily. On top of the fact that machine ice isn't as visual compelling as block ice, bar owners generally don't consider the cost of operating or running one. And if an ice machine were to break, it would shut down the whole bar.

8) Just because it's hand-cut block ice doesn't justify the cocktail costing $12. A block of ice can cost as little as 12 cents each, meaning a drink's total cost from the bar side might total over a dollar. The most expensive component of a drink is still the booze.

Dozois finishes up by making a Thai Iced Tea Gin Fizz using a melted ice cream base, shaking hard, then pouring into a Collins glass filled with an elongated cube. Then some 7up to add a head to the top.
·All Cocktail Week 2013 Coverage [~ELA~]

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