Should bartenders use hand-carved ice?

10th September, 2018 by admin

Yes: Andrew Dickey, head bartender, 9Below, Dublin, Ireland

Andrew-Ice-debate9Below is a bar right in the heart of Dublin city centre; we specialise in fine wines, Champagnes, spirits and cocktails. In cocktails, ice is as important as any other ingredient and is often overlooked. It’s a crucial ingredient and is the binding agent for all mixed drinks. At 9Below we use it while shaking, stirring or throwing cocktails, depending on how much dilution the drink requires and whether it’s served straight up or over ice.

Hand­-carved ice is an amazing addition to have in your bar. To make it, you need block ice machines that use a directional freezing process. They also agitate the water while it freezes, allowing all the impurities to rise to the top. This leaves the ice crystal clear and means it has a greater density that slows down the rate of dilution, so you can enjoy an Old Fashioned or Negroni for longer because it will not become over­-diluted quickly.

Another advantage to using block ice is that it can be cut to any size, whereas most ice machines just produce standard one inch by one inch cubes. You also find most ice machines produce ice that is hollow in the middle, which means the rate of dilution is much quicker compared to the much denser block ice you carve by hand.

I know there are some very good­ quality ice machines that make excellent ice for shaking and stirring – at 9Below we use Hoshizaki machines. However, there are certain drinks I would use only block ice with. If I made a Dark ‘n’ Stormy or a Penicillin using fresh ginger extract, I would shake it vigorously with one block of ice to make sure I didn’t over­-dilute the ginger.

I have noticed more bars looking at their ice programmes, especially in the world’s top bars. I think it depends on the venue but bespoke bars and cocktail bars should try to make ice themselves or buy in clear ice from ice companies.

As well as being majorly important to the quality of drinks, ice is also important in helping your bar stand out on social media. I’ve been working with hand-­carved ice for more than four years now, and people still lose their minds when they see it being made in front of them. So hand­-carving ice can really benefit a business in a number of ways.

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