If you ask ice machine manufacturers, companies who specialize in ice sanitation, or even companies that produce and sell ice, one theme is common. Ice is food.
This is no different in the world of bar and beverage.
"Ice is the most important part of a cocktail," said Joey Houghtaling, co-owner of Milwuakee's Beaker & Flask Beverage Company in a recent article in OnMilwaukee. "When you use larger, well-built cubes, the dilution rate is slower since there's less air trapped in the cubes. When there's less air, the ice melts more slowly, so you have a lot more control over the flavor of the cocktail. When you start with better water, you're also not adding any off flavors from minerals or additives like fluoride."
In essence, ice can provide three important functions.
First, if ice is made with good water in a clean and sanitized process, it can eliminate any unwanted flavors from chemicals or outside agents. At the end of the day, cocktail flavors are the most important aspect, and high-quality ice can help ensure this.
Second, ice -- particularly high-volume ice -- can lead to slower dilution rates. Large, 2"x 2" cubes, for example, have less surface area that comes in direct contact with the beverage. The helps ensure drinks are not watered down and that they're consistent from the first sip to the last. At the same time, this slower dilution rate can help open up a spirit's nose, allowing for maximum flavor potential, mouthfeel, and aroma.
Finally, ice is visually stunning, especially clear ice.
"There's also a wow factor when you see the clarity of the ice in the glass," said Beaker & Flask Beverage co-owner, Mike McDonald. "But it's also about increasing the quality of the drinking experience."
Crystal clear ice will certainly enhance the drinking experience, and cloudy ice is also a tell for water that is impure or water that contains air bubbles that are trapped in the ice. As Houghtaling said, when ice contains fewer air bubbles, it melts slower, contributing to a lower dilution rate and a "sturdier" cocktail in terms of flavor. Clear ice can also increase the price of the cocktail.
Ice also provides bartenders with an opportunity to get creative. There's no rule that says ice has to be made with water. In fact, ice made with ginger beer or with an added cayenne simple syrup can allow a cocktail to develop and change over time. The drinking experience can have very different effects from the first sip to the last.
High-volume ice is often served in high-volume bars.
With so many unique and specialized ingredients in today's cocktail world, bartenders need them all at their fingertips in order to be efficient and to maximize profitability. Perlick worked with world-renown bartender, Tobin Ellis, with this idea in mind. The result was the Tobin Ellis Signature Cocktail Station.
The Tobin Ellis Signature Cocktail Station is kind of like the "bartender's cockpit." Imagine an underbar unit you can literally step up into with everything at arm's length. This is the first real step toward zero-step bartending.
See what other's are saying about the Tobin Ellis Signature Cocktail Station in this short video.