El Restaurante Mexicano January/February 2011 : Page 14

at the bar ICE IT! What you Don’t Know About Ice BY ROBERT PLOTKIN ice cube is one that has been tarnished with excess water on its surface, thus al-lowing it to melt at a much quicker rate than desired.” Another consideration: the kind of water used to make ice, because its quality will affect the taste of the fi n-ished drink. Bar experts suggest using spring or mineral water, or soft water if the others aren’t practical. Celebrated chef and mixologist Kathy Casey thinks soft water produces better ice for drink-making. “While spring or mineral waters are preferable, they’re not necessarily a practical op-tion at a bar,” Casey says. “However, installing a water softener is relatively inexpensive. And because the water is also fi ltered, the ice comes out free of haze or clouding. Crystal clear ice is more aesthetically pleasing.” Size matters The size and shape of the ice you use play key roles in a drink’s fl avor. “Small ice cubes tend to melt faster than larger cubes and will therefore more quickly dilute mixed drinks,” Bacardi’s Peek contends. “A drink made with small cubes will taste best when it’s fi rst served, but becomes watery and less fl a-vorful in short order. Larger ice cubes melt more slowly and release less water into a drink. That means the fi rst sip will taste as good as the last.” Ryan Magerian, mixologist and cre-S hine a bright light in the eyes of an accomplished mixologist and he or she will eventually admit that ice is the most important ingredient in cock-tails. It impacts every aspect of mixed drinks and does so with little cost and no marketing or packaging. In a time when success behind the bar is measured one drink at a time, outfi tting your bar with the most advantageous type of ice is es-sential. Its contribution goes beyond lower-ing the temperature of a cocktail to its proper serving temperature (around 37˚F to 38˚F). “Equally important, ice introduces water into a drink. It helps to balance the blend and allows the various ingre-dients to meld and harmonize,” says Debbi Peek, portfolio mixologist for Bacardi USA. “The water also softens the biting edge of spirits, as well as ac-centuates their fl avor.” According to Jonathan Pogash, di-rector of cocktail development for New York’s Hospitality Holdings, which op-erates several Manhattan venues, the relative hardness of ice is an often over-looked attribute. “A hard cube, lump cube or block of ice will dilute a drink at a much slower rate than your run-of-the-mill ice machine ice cube. If ice isn’t hard enough it will melt too quick-ly and over-dilute the cocktail. A ‘wet’ 14 el restaurante mexicano

At The Bar

Robert Plotkin

Shine a bright light in the eyes of an accomplished mixologist and he or she will eventually admit that ice is the most important ingredient in cocktails. It impacts every aspect of mixed drinks and does so with little cost and no marketing or packaging. In a time when success behind the bar is measured one drink at a time, outfitting your bar with the most advantageous type of ice is essential.<br /> <br /> Its contribution goes beyond lowering the temperature of a cocktail to its proper serving temperature (around 37°F to 38°F).<br /> <br /> <br /> “Equally important, ice introduces water into a drink. It helps to balance The blend and allows the various ingredients to meld and harmonize,” says Debbi Peek, portfolio mixologist for Bacardi USA. “The water also softens the biting edge of spirits, as well as accentuates their flavor.”<br /> <br /> According to Jonathan Pogash, director of cocktail development for New York’s Hospitality Holdings, which operates several Manhattan venues, the relative hardness of ice is an often overlooked attribute. “A hard cube, lump cube or block of ice will dilute a drink at a much slower rate than your runof- the-mill ice machine ice cube. If ice isn’t hard enough it will melt too quickly and over-dilute the cocktail. A ‘wet’ice cube is one that has been tarnished with excess water on its surface, thus allowing it to melt at a much quicker rate than desired.”<br /> <br /> Another consideration: the kind of water used to make ice, because its quality will affect the taste of the finished drink. Bar experts suggest using spring or mineral water, or soft water if the others aren’t practical.<br /> <br /> Celebrated chef and mixologist Kathy Casey thinks soft water produces better ice for drink-making. “While spring or mineral waters are preferable, they’re not necessarily a practical option at a bar,” Casey says. “However, installing a water softener is relatively inexpensive. And because the water is also fi ltered, the ice comes out free of haze or clouding. Crystal clear ice is more aesthetically pleasing.”<br /> <br /> Size matters<br /> <br /> The size and shape of the ice you use play key roles in a drink’s flavor. “Small ice cubes tend to melt faster than larger cubes and will therefore more quickly dilute mixed drinks,” Bacardi’s Peek contends. “A drink made with small cubes will taste best when it’s first served, but becomes watery and less flavorful in short order. Larger ice cubes melt more slowly and release less water into a drink. That means the first sip will taste as good as the last.” <br /> <br /> Ryan Magerian, mixologist and cre-<br /> <br /> Ator of Aviation Gin, thinks large-format ice looks better than standard bar ice, especially when stacked in a highball glass. “More importantly, using fewer, large format-cubes presents less surface area and results in slower dilution,” he says. “I recommend making drinks with 1.25-inch cubes.”<br /> <br /> Ice balls, long a staple in Japan, are gaining popularity behind American bars. Ice balls are seemingly the perfect marriage of form and function. Made on-premise in molds or carved individually, they look like crystal clear spheres between three and five inches in diameter. Their singular shape allows them to melt at a slower rate, thus reducing dilution. <br /> <br /> Peek likes using Ice balls in on-the rocks cocktails. “Since they’re round the corners don’t melt, leaving the first sip as cold as the last,” she says. “They’re crystal clear, look sexy and last a long time. In a recent cocktail competition, I presented my entry with an ice ball to ensure it wasn’t watered down by the time it made it to the judges’ table.”<br /> <br /> Retro chillers <br /> <br /> Back in the day, cocktails were prepared with chipped, cracked or crushed ice. Even in the 1970s bars typically carried both cubed and crushed ice in the bartender’s station. But as juleps, frappes and smashes slipped from the limelight, so did the need for stocking crushed ice behind the bar. The current Tiki drink revival has changed that.<br /> <br /> “Tiki drinks are those popularized<br /> <br /> After Repeal through the 1950s and 60s,” says Pogash. “Luminaries such as ‘Trader’ Vic Bergeron knew that crushed ice created a massively cold drink and that people in the tropical South Pacific needed more help beating the heat than anyone else.”<br /> <br /> Crushed ice has more surface area than any other form of ice, second only to shaved ice. “That makes crushed ice perfect for making Tiki drinks,” Magerian says. “Not only does it make them cold, but they’re potent drinks, so the extra dilution is an advantage.”<br /> <br /> While the cocktail reigns supreme, ice appears to be the power behind the throne. As Pogash says, “You’ve walked into a place that cares about its drinks when you see the proper ice being plopped, dropped, chipped or cracked into your glass.”

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