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Smoked Ice
Grand Member (8 years)  

Joined: Nov 23, 2006
Posts: 6153
From: Sun City Lincoln Hills (NorCal)
Posted: 2011-04-10 02:30 am   Permalink

Did a search but wasn't able to find info on this ice topic. I saw a recipe for Bloody Marys that called for smoked ice cubes, so did some research and found this article on ice.

In The Art of Cocktails, Ice Is the Secret Ingredient
By Special to MIX

The most overlooked ingredient behind the bar is clear, tasteless and virtually free. And no, it's not bottom-shelf vodka. It's ice, and it's an integral part of a properly made cocktail, whether you're using crushed ice in a mint julep or employing a slow-melting spherical cube to chill a spirit-heavy cocktail. It's easy to mock ice-obsessed bartenders for fixating on such a simple ingredient. But their zeal is well-placed: In addition to keeping our drinks cold, ice acts as a source of water in cocktails and can affect everything from a drink's aroma to its texture and taste.

"I firmly believe that the sign of a bartender who takes cocktails seriously is someone who thinks about water," says Daniel Shoemaker, owner of Teardrop Cocktail Lounge. "It's the most understated and the most under-thought ingredient in a cocktail, but also the most insistent."

In Shoemaker's rule book, •water must account for 20 to 25 percent of the total product in a cocktail; the best way to get there is with ice, but not just any old cube. Now that bartenders are paying close attention to every •aspect of their craft, they're learning that the size, source and even flavor of their cubes matters.

The Size
To choose the right-sized cube, bartenders need to consider how a cube will melt. Using the wrong size cube can lead to an over diluted drink ... or one that isn't diluted enough. Spirit-heavy drinks such as an Old Fashioned or Beaker & Flask's New Vieux need large cubes to chill the cocktail without watering it down. "If you're going for a drink that's heavily spirit-based and you're trying to get the taste of the spirit in, you have to consider that alcohol melts ice faster than water does -- it basically works like antifreeze," says Beaker & Flask's owner Kevin Ludwig. The general rule that boozier beverages need bigger cubes explains why we're seeing more slow-melting spherical ice and large hand-carved cubes at ingredient-focused bars.

Different rules apply to drinks laced with citrus juice, says Laurelhurst Market's bar manager Evan Zimmerman. These drinks want to be good and cold, and to be diluted more, something best •accomplished by regular cube ice. Tiki-style cocktails and concentrated drinks such as mint juleps need ice that chills a drink quickly and waters it down; crushed ice makes these cocktails instantly drinkable. Finally, drinks such as gin martinis need only a quick kiss of ice. Too much dilution would ruin the spirit's aromatics and the cocktail's velvety texture, says Zimmerman, so bartenders must stir these drinks with ice, then strain the spirits into the glass.

The Source
As interest in ice grows, bartenders are learning that their ice source can change the way imbibers respond to a drink. That's why Shoemaker sprang for a Kold-Draft; the top-tier ice machine pumps out airless, slow-melting cubes that outperform the industry standard -- called pillow ice -- thanks to their large surface area.

"There is a greater surface area on the cube itself but less surface area overall for the cocktail, and that's what you want, less surface area because that's where dilution happens," he says. "There are only eight Kold-Draft cubes •going into a cocktail being shaken versus the 50 of pillow ice that you'd need."

Teardrop's bar staff broadens their ice selection with large block ice and long, spear-shaped cubes made from double boiled, distilled water. And here's the point where bartenders disagree: Shoemaker says double boiled, distilled water makes purer cubes, while bartenders Ludwig and Zimmerman skip these steps and use regular tap water for cube making.

"All the tricks of using distilled or double-boiled water are all good and well, but the payoff for these techniques is nominal, and the only real key thing to do is use warmer •water so that it freezes slower and allows trapped oxygen and other pollutants to exit the ice as it freezes," says Zimmerman. (Spirits writer Camper English agrees: Over the course of the ice making experiments detailed on his blog alcademics.com, he found little difference between cubes made from distilled water and those made from tap water.)

Lest you think your bartender isn't already obsessing about enough, between the micro-distilled liquor and organically grown botanicals in the artisan mixers, he can now obsess over ice. Here, Evan Zimmerman, bartender at Laurelhurst Market, chisels large cubes of smoked ice from a large block, then whittles them into icy spheres with just the right surface area to soak in the top of his signature Smoke Signals cocktail.

Surprising twists
Around town, creative bartenders have come up with innovative twists on the clear, flavorless cube. Ludwig complements the pineapple syrup and aged rum in his Sal's Minion cocktail with ice cubes made from coconut water, while Zimmerman puts ice in a smoker until it melts, then re-freezes the water to make the intriguing smoked ice cubes in his Smoke Signals cocktail.

"I wanted the drink to smell smoky, but not taste smoky. By making a large cube of smoked ice, the surface area is decreased significantly, thus the ice melts more slowly," he says. "As one drinks the cocktail, more of the cube becomes exposed, giving the feel that the drink itself is becoming smokier, when in fact the aroma is the only thing that really increases."

Though Shoemaker previously made sauerkraut ice and rosemary cubes, he still prefers plain cubes to anything flavored. "If you are going to put something on flavored ice, you have to be prepared for the fact that it's going to be two separate cocktails. You aren't going to get the flavor in the beginning at all, and then it will slowly graduate and the drink will become an entirely different cocktail," he says.

Perfect Cubes
With the right tools, you can improve your ice making skills at home. Here are three ice-making options that will help you turn out superior cubes for your home bar.

"Perfect Cube" Ice Cube Trays
Flexible silicone trays won't absorb freezer odors, and they release cubes easily so the ice doesn't crack. $12.95 for two trays, surlatable.com

Spherical Ice Tray Set
Curvy cubes caught your eye? Make 2-inch diameter ice spheres a la Beaker & Flask using this mold from the Museum of Modern Art. $16 for set of two molds, momastore.org

Loaf Pans and a Pick
Keep it simple by repurposing two 16-by-4-inch loaf pans as ice molds, says Zimmerman. Freeze a couple of decent size blocks in your freezer in these, then invest in a good ice pick to start hand-carving your own cubes. Ice picks from $13.95, cocktailkingdom.com
"Oh waiter, another cocktail please!!!"

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