I was talking with my friend Jason today, and showed him a website for a new housing development in our area. The development’s target audience is the young-professional millennial, and the website tried a bit too hard–it referenced trends and used the word “artisanal” to describe the nearby shops at least a half-dozen times.
That’s when Jason gave me the news. “Artisanal ice cubes” are a real trend right now.
That is, people are paying extra money for ice cubes that are created in a special, usually hand-crafted manner.
Now, I’ve had special whiskey ice cubes before (the large ones that don’t melt as fast), but this goes a step further.
Now, bartenders across the land are staking their claim on ice, creating fancified cocktails where the frozen stuff takes a front seat.
“If you’re talking premium liquor, you expect premium glass and ice too,” says Andrew Bohrer, a longtime Seattle bartender and co-founder of the Washington State Bartender’s Guild.
This thirst for “premium ice” has resulted in a boom in boutique ice delivery services and specialized gear like the greaseless chainsaws and Japanese hand saws used to carve block ice. Of course, all of this specialized machinery and hands-on ice craft comes at a cost, and that’s where you, the customer, comes in
That article also highlights some frustration customers have with artisanal ice. Primarily, how long it takes to get your drink because of it. (One customer started ordering his drinks “neat” to avoid the ice-capades).
What’s cooler than being cool is indeed ice cold. Specifically, it’s stored at minus-2 degrees, sculpted with a Japanese band saw, and retails for $1 a cube.
Yes, artisanal ice is now a thing. In hipster meccas from Portland to Williamsburg, bars are serving up their drinks on extra-dense, extra-clear cubes, produced through a laborious process of freezing and carving. Cocktail connoisseurs swear the difference in flavor is worth the extra effort.
Cohen (the author of the article) has issues with the environmental impact of this type of ice (storage, shipping, etc–thus the title), but her article also points out just how much work goes into each ice cube.
In DC, a restaurant (recently closed due to maintenance issues) was charging $1 upcharge for the ice cubes. Due to the complex nature of these ice cubes, they were not making a profit off of them. In fact, they considered the $1 ice cubes “a loss leader”.
I’m all for a good drink, but this seems a bit far. If I involve fancy ice cubes in my drinks, I’d rather the ice cubes themselves be the drinks. For example, I’ve heard of bartenders making a gin & tonic ice cube before. That’s pretty cool.
What do you think of this trend?