It was a realization that crept up on us slowly, but as soon as we put it together we saw it everywhere. Those frozen cubes clanging around in our $16 cocktails weren't just average chunks of ice, they were artisanal. Yup, premium ice is everywhere these days. Whether in the form of small globes, perfect little shavings, mystical rods or hand-hacked chunks, ice has become just as important to the anatomy of a drink as the hand-crafted, small batch liquor it's chilling.
Swallowing our natural skepticism and urge to mention a certain Portlandia sketch, we went on the hunt for some answers regarding the legitimacy of this phenomenon, and what we got was an education in ice.
According to Jim Meeham, owner of PDT in the East Village (and first ever recipient of a James Beard award for Best Bar Program), the main defense for different ice formations comes down to dilution rates. The larger the cube the slower it will melt, keeping your masterpiece of a drink at a more constant chill. So if you're a straight shooter who prefers two fingers of the finest hooch, you're looking for one giant solid cube in your drink. However, if a mojito or julep is more your jam, smaller ice cubes are your game, as they melt quickly, infusing the right amount of water into the syrupy drink as they melt.
So simple! But that's not all: Meehan advises that clarity is also key. A perfectly clear ice cube, which is the result of a slow freezing period, melts slower than the mass produced bag-o-ice from the bodega. Plus it's prettier.
So the next time we're out at Booker and Dax, Angel's Share, PDT, Amor y Amargo or any other bar where they take pride in their drinks and, upon placing our order, the bartender immediately breaks out a hand chisel, we'll resist our urge for an eye roll and know that we'll be getting a masterfully built cocktail. Mazel!