Ice and the Art of Cocktails

I count myself lucky and privileged to have supplied hundreds of the best cocktail creators and innovators in the world during the last 21 years since founding the Icebox. When we started, the trend for Cocktail Bars run by people who were passionate about the perfect serve was enjoying a revival. Drinks brands were experimenting, the cocktail style leaders in London (from Dougie and the guys at LAB Bar and Simon at Bamboo to event cocktail bar specialists and the iconic classics from Blue Bar and American Bar that revelled in restyling), asked us to find solutions in perfecting ice for the perfect cocktail and the perfect serve. The right type of ice, purified and filtered, crushed that was loose, cubes that were cubes, rocks, spheres, personalised engraved cubes, you name it, we have been asked for it. 21 years young…. approximately 1.5 million bags of ice later…..we are still regarded as the Ice Experts.

Ice is the universal ingredient to almost every cocktail, not only controlling the temperature of the drink but maintaining the purity and dilution as well as completing the final look. Charlie Whitfield, Brand Manager – Snow Leopard Vodka tells us: “People always underestimate the importance and quality of ice in cocktails. Snow Leopard vodka is known for the quality of its spelt grain and how it creates a unique freshness and ultra-smooth, full bodied taste. In order to maintain this character, the purity of ice in our cocktails is paramount as well.”

I am personally involved in the ice development for many brands we work with – Max at Chivas and Alex at Kamm & Sons and hundreds of the UK’s top Brand Ambassadors and Cocktail Gurus. Some drinks brands have also been with us all the way, Stoli, Grey Goose, Heineken and Chivas plus some newcomers in the Gin, aperitif and beer sectors.

By understanding the art of cocktail making and the importance of ice, we have developed a range of special ice pieces using the purified crystal clear carving ice to give the drink a completely different dimension. We’ve developed bespoke cubes for ‘on the rocks’ cocktails, the perfect crushed for a Caprioskas, specialised cuboids for hi-balls, moonballs for martinis and bar chipping blocks for varying ice requirements. Quintessentially Spirits who really understand the value of ice when treating their guests their “perfect serve” have given their ideal ice breakdown:

BLOCK - A single cube of ice that fills a tumbler or rocks glass. The block melts slowly, which offers the least amount of dilution to the vodka and keeps the spirit more intact than alternative serves. It will withstand up to three serves, each time the ice is ‘seasoned’ or ‘educated’ and so improves. The block is perfect for those wanting to sip and slowly savor Quintessentially Vodka.

CUBED – The most common serve of ice, found in bars around the world. Cubes need to be solid, and not hollow, to avoid a slushy consistency upon contact with the vodka. Good solid cubed ice will chill vodka quickly and give good dilution without overt watering down. To add an extra dimension to your cubed serve, try a twist of your favourite citrus fruit.

CRACKED OR CRUSHED – The vodka passes through the small shards of ice and by the time it hits the bottom of the glass it will be very well chilled. As the surface area of the ice is so limited it will melt quickly, meaning that the cracked or crushed serve has the highest dilution rate. The result is the lightest of flavour profiles and is a particularly suitable way to enjoy Quintessentially Vodka on warm evenings.

Apart from always trying to come up with the solutions to the challenges we get asked to solve we have developed original ways to present a drinks brand too which maximises awareness, impact and retention of the brand. These include amazing branded service stations, ice bars, replica bottles and even complete temporary pop-up ice bars in frozen environments.

Since founding the Icebox I have personally become increasingly interested in the world of cocktails and love the classics, checking out the greats and all things new when I can. In London, Colebrooke Row is classic style. The new Cartizze Bar is just heavenly, with classy surroundings and gorgeous cocktails. Another London relative newcomer is Mr Foggs, again, lovers of cocktails, painstakingly creating interesting, professionally served classics. In Liverpool, the discreet ‘hard to find’ Berry & Rye; innovative, great vibe and clearly lovers of the perfect cocktail.

On a recent site survey for a client to check out logistics for an exciting event later this year in New York City, I had the fortunate chance to do some ‘cocktail homework and research’! I only had one evening and contacted some friends and experts in New York for advice. The ‘speakeasy’ trend of prohibition secret bars with disguised entrances is big out there (PDT, Apotheke, AB) so is the ‘love’ for the cocktail. On this trip, I was only able to visit Death & Co, in the East Village, which is a dark, hidden intimate bar, with an unmarked doorway. Perched at the bar, I was served amazing cocktails, created by experts with a genuine passion and interest. Their bar top prep area is filled with infusions, ingredients in classical bottles and you get the idea that in this place, everyone behind that bar knows what they’re doing … and some.

Ice is a key ingredient in every cocktail, either in the preparation or the serve and these ‘pro’ cocktail bar experts that we work for don’t settle for ‘any old ice’ its got to be right – it’s no wonder we take it so seriously!

Hoping to visit New York again soon, so will try somewhere else, or revisit Death…..

Tough job….but someone’s gotta do it!!