ESSENTIAL BAR SKILLS: ICE
Ice is the universal ingredient in over 90% of drinks, so it’s high time we gave it the attention it deserves! Whether it’s cubed, cracked or shaved, we reveal how your choice of ice can make or break your serves and show you how to add a little frozen flair.
Believe it or not, as a bartender, you should consider your choice of ice as carefully as you do your base spirit. Good-quality ice can be one of the most aesthetically pleasing aspects of a cocktail and the slightest imperfection can have a dramatic effect on the quality of the final serve. Ice not only chills drinks but, as it melts, it becomes a vital part of the cocktail itself and subtly alters the flavour and consistency. Contrary to popular belief, adding more ice to a cocktail won’t automatically affect its temperature or dilution. Once a drink reaches thermal equilibrium (between -5°c and -8°c), continuing to shake or add ice makes very little difference.
Choosing the right type of ice
Cubed ice – The large surface area melts slowly, chilling drinks without too much dilution, perfect for shaking, stirring and drinks on the rocks.
Crushed ice – Easily made using a blender and used primarily in frozen drinks and mint juleps.
Cracked ice – Melts faster than cubed ice and adds more water, perfect in serves such as Caipirinhas and Margaritas.
Shaved ice – Very fine ice used to make slushy cocktails and snow cones, great for creating drinks with a bit of theatre and flair.
Have you ever noticed that the ice in your drink looks cloudy or pale white in colour? This is because it has been frozen quickly from the outside in, so impurities and air bubbles have been trapped in the centre. Ice made from pure, distilled water which is frozen slowly will prevent cloudiness and result in great quality, crystal-clear ice that melts more slowly, allowing greater control over the level of dilution.
Ice care and storage
When it comes to hygiene, ice should be treated as carefully as food. It is extremely important to pay extra attention and care to your ice-making equipment and all associated tools to prevent contamination and maintain high standards in your venue.
- Ice scoop – plastic, stainless steel, aluminium or polycarbonate scoops are best. Never use a glass to scoop ice as it could break, potentially causing injury and filling the ice supply with glass.
- Ice buckets – A good quality ice bucket which is well-insulated and has a grate or a raised base will keep ice at the correct temperature and away from any melted water. Always replace the lid after every use and leave tongs outside the bucket.
- Ice supply – Always ensure you have a continuous supply of fresh ice behind the bar and enough to last the whole shift. Using storage such as chest freezers will create more storage space and can also be used to restock ice during quieter periods.
As bartenders, we are constantly pushing the creative boundaries of ice. These are just a few of the trends and techniques you can introduce in your bar to make sure you stay ahead of the curve.
Balls– A large, spherical chunk of ice made in a mould, typically used for serving whisk(e)y on the rocks and cocktails such as the Old Fashioned and the Negroni.
Pebbles – Served in cobblers and swizzles to keep them cold whilst introducing the ideal amount of water into the mix.
Rods – Straw-like pieces of ice that are used mainly in Collins glasses and can be made from moulds or carved from larger blocks of ice.
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