In last week’s post on the occupational hazards of bartending, I examined some of the factors that are contributing to Repetitive Stress Injury among today’s mixologists. The popularity of theatrical cocktail shaking was one factor, with more bartenders engaging in prolonged over-the-shoulder gyrations. The main culprit, however, was ice, particularly the Kold-Draft—the current designer ice machine of choice.
Ironically, the same factors that make Kold-Draft ice dangerous for bartenders also cause it to make better cocktails. Kold-Draft ice comes in three sizes, but all the cubes have some things in common. They stay in the machine longer and are extremely cold and dense, making them melt more slowly and chill drinks more efficiently. They are more likely to produce a perfect cocktail rather than a sloppy, watered-down mess.
Some cocktail gurus believe that the fishing industry was responsible for the renaissance in ice. Cubes such as Kold-Draft are apparently excellent for packing fish, and demand from fishermen kept the machines popular until modern bartenders found them.
Increasingly, the nation’s leading bars are going beyond designer ice machines. Weather Up, a new establishment opening soon in TriBeCa, has invested $6,000 in a space-age ice machine called the Clinebell CB300X2, which produces two 300-pound blocks of pure ice every three or four days, free from impurities and oxygen bubbles. “We’re going to be the first bar on the East Coast of the United States that is doing in-house ice harvesting and production,” said partner Paul Boccato. Other establishments such as Alembic (San Francisco), The Violet Hour (Chicago) and Cure (New Orleans) are also chipping ice to order from giant blocks.
What about the home bartender? While few of us can afford a Kold-Draft, help is on the way. A New York bar called Death & Co. uses part of their website to instruct customers on how to proceed when entertaining their friends. “You can do some fun things with your ice,” they advise. “Try pouring water into muffin tins to make large ice cubes for your Old Fashioned. Pouring water into bread pans or baking trays will allow you to make your own custom ice for each glass you use.”