Playing With Ice

One cheap and easy ingredient makes its way onto every menu across the world. Can you guess what it is? If you guessed ice, you are correct. Frozen water has a place on every drink menu, but most people don’t pay much attention to this seemingly simple ingredient. With the artisanal ice movement in full swing, you may be wondering if it’s just a fad or has real merit in the culinary world.

The Science

Specialty ice has two important qualities, higher density and less dilution. These perfect ice cubes utilize natural science concepts to give customers the coldest and smoothest tasting drinks. A standard ice cube is frozen from all directions at once, while an artisan ice cube freezes from the top down as ice naturally does in the environment. This top-down freezing method leaves little room for air bubbles and  other impurities to give you a clear block of ice, which is more dense so it melts at a slower rate. For customers this means their drink doesn’t get diluted and tastes the same the entire time they’re drinking it. With some cocktails, you’ll want the ice to dilute the drink a bit, but for many you really want the ice to just keep the drink cold for as long as needed.

The Shapes

Diners are used to those standard rectangle-shaped ice cubes they get at home or the crushed version they can get from their freezer door. As a chef and restaurateur it’s your responsibility to give customers new and exciting culinary adventures, even with ice. So, how can you make ice exciting for guests? Learn about and use different forms of ice in your drink menu. The visual difference will intrigue customers and make them feel special. The taste difference will keep them coming back for more and making recommendations to friends. The restaurant business is tough and these little details can really set you apart from others.

  • Full Cube – This classic cube shape where height, width, and depth are equal cools drinks fast and melts slow.
  • Half Cube – Cut a full cube in half and you’ve got this smaller, flatter cube that offers the chance to fill a glass with more ice than liquid.
  • Crescent – With one flat side and one curved side, this shape resists clumping well.
  • Pearl or Nugget – This soft, chewable ice looks like little pebbles and doesn’t melt fast so customers who like to crunch their ice enjoy the ingredient after the beverage is gone.
  • Gourmet – Everything from an octagon to a ball can be chiseled out of an ice block to wow guests with impressive looks.
  • Flake – These little ice chips can be packed and shaped making them a great bed for cold foods.

Playing with details like the ice in your drinks can be subtle or elaborate. Change out your ice shape for different drinks to pique interest or create a stunning artisanal ice carving station behind the bar to attract attention. No matter how you play with ice, guests will think it’s cool.

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