The Daiquiri No. 6, a signature cocktail at the swanky new Artesian bar in London’s Langham Hotel, is an artful mixture of lime juice, Bacardi Rum and agave syrup topped off with a few dashes of absinthe. The finishing touch? A round of ice laser-imprinted with the bar’s logo.
Perhaps it was only a matter of time before bars took ice to such high-tech heights. The cocktail revival’s obsession with the frozen stuff may have begun with a pursuit to slow the melting rate of ice cubes, which dilutes a perfectly mixed drink. But it has grown to include a variety of practices that not long ago would have seemed outlandish, like hand carving nearly glass-sized spheres from jumbo blocks of ice or using machines like the Kold-Draft, which produces very clear, perfectly shaped oversized cubes and costs more than $5,000. (The Langham outsources its engraving to a London firm.)
Mixologists consider ice as integral to the experience of a drink as fresh ingredients or proper glassware. “People taste with their eyes first,” says Jim Meehan, Liquor.com advisor. His New York bar PDT has invested nearly $15,000 in three different ice-making machines, including one that produces pebbles and an apparatus that molds cubes into baseball-size spheres.
At Dutch Kills, a new speakeasy-style bar in Queens, New York, bartenders begin carving ice into a range of shapes two hours before each shift starts. The establishment starts with 300-pound blocks made by a local ice-sculpture studio, which slowly freezes water over several days for a crystalline product.
Even though Richard Boccato, co-owner of Dutch Kills, may have helped pioneer this icy new “frontier,” he keeps a sense of humor about it. “It’s just frozen water,” he says.