Everything from chocolate to cucumber to venison broth is being injected into drink ice, to enhance alcoholic concoctions and develop signature reputations for properties that want to be much more than just “watering holes.”
For years, USA Today reported in its recent article, “Cool Trends in Cocktails: Flavor-Infused Ice Cubes,” leading bars have taken pride in maintaining cutting-edge ice programs. And today, the USA Today article a number of creative breakthroughs have often left consumers wondering, “What is that floating in my drink?”
From international beer companies and luxury resorts to humble local bars, everyone’s looking at new ways to impress when it comes to keeping drinks cool. Here’s a look at some noteworthy examples — venison-broth ice cubes, anyone? — from across the globe that USA Today highlighted in its recent article:
• One of downtown Atlanta’s liveliest spots, Alma Cocina, features a forward-thinking beverage program that explores how ice affects the flavor and texture of cocktails by pairing infused ice cubes with hand-selected tequilas. Beverage Director Vajra Stratigos matches Plata 2010 Single Estate Tequila Ocho with ice made from seasoned coconut water and fresh pineapple, while FGR Herradura Double Reposado’s complexities are heightened thanks to a granny smith apple and jalapeno ice cube.
• The Bounce Sporting Club upscale sports bars in New York City embraces the trend through cocktails such as the T-Ball (Brugal Extra Dry rum poured over a honeydew ice sphere in a glass rimmed with cayenne-spiced sugar) and the Swan Dive (Avion Silver tequila poured over a watermelon ice sphere in a glass rimmed with a blend of sugar and “chipotle-kissed” sea salt).
• One of the first establishments in Stephen Starr’s far-reaching culinary empire, the Continental Restaurant & Martini Bar remains one of Philadelphia’s preeminent cocktail bars. The 18th & Locust (vodka, fresh grapefruit, elderflower) is served over a Campari-and-rosemary ice spear; it’s billed as a “journey” cocktail,because its flavors evolve as the ice melts.
• The infused ice cube craze has extended to the other side of the world, as evidenced by one of Australia’s hippest hotels, QT Sydney. Visitors to the hotel’s stylish brasserie, the Gowings Bar & Grill, and intimate late-night Gilt Lounge can enjoy a house barrel-aged Old Fashioned (Woodford Reserve bourbon, Regan’s orange bitters, whiskey-aged bitters, vanilla demerara sugar, cherry brandy, orange twist) served with a chocolate- and maple-infused ice cube.
• Part of the influential Kempinski hotel group, Munich’s Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten maintains a progressive cocktail program at its Jahreszeiten Bar. A mix of guests and locals fill the Old English-style space to sample intriguing concoctions like the Liquid Kitchen, in which Hendrick’s gin, agave syrup and fresh lemon juice are combined and served over colorful cucumber ice cubes.
• At the popular Atlanta chef Ford Fry’s King + Duke, the Colonial-inspired menu focuses on rustic meats and dishes cooked on the kitchen’s 24-foot open-fire grill and hearth. Fry’s beverage team serves a variation on the Bloody Bull cocktail (a tomato-based concoction made with beef bouillon) called the Bloody Buck, which uses venison-broth ice cubes to impart a rich, meaty flavor into a cocktail of vodka and house-made Bloody Mary mix that’s garnished with house-aged Angus beef jerky.
• Japan’s Kirin Ichiban Frozen has been a hit in its native land, and now American consumers can experience draught Kirin Ichiban beer topped with frozen Ichiban, which keeps the suds cold for longer. (When the frozen beer melts it turns back into beer without watering down the drink.) Kirin Ichiban Frozen machines can be found everywhere from ballparks (Dodger Stadium, Yankee Stadium) and Disney’s Epcot to restaurants in Los Angeles (Katsuya at the Americana) and Honolulu (Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ), with more on the way this year.
• The Conrad New York’s colorfully named rooftop bar, Loopy Doopy, has become synonymous with its house-made “Boozy Icepops,” each of which is served in a glass of Prosecco on tap. As the popsicle melts, it changes the flavor and texture of the refreshing, fruity concoction. The seasonal bar, which offers stunning views of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor, combines fresh fruit with small-batch local spirits to produce popsicles such as Brooklyn Gin with blood orange and lychee, and Hudson Baby bourbon with white peach.
• The renowned mixologist Johnny Swet wows crowds with his creative approach to ice at the JIMMY lounges located in The James Hotel’s New York and Chicago properties. The Legal in Vermont cocktail combines Knob Creek bourbon, maple syrup, muddled red shiso and cinnamon-flavored ice with a dash of orange bitters. For New York’s hot spot The Skylark, Swet created the Spring Negroni (Nolet’s gin, Aperol, Carpano Antica, “lavender-kissed” ice, orange twist) and the Fort Knox (Elijah Craig bourbon, reposado mezcal and yellow Chartreuse honey syrup poured over a grilled lemon ice block).
• One of Silicon Valley’s most acclaimed hotels, the Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park, Calif., offers an infused ice cube cocktail menu throughout its stunning grounds. The Passenger features frozen pomegranate juice cubes muddled with pomegranate-flavored vodka, mint and lime, then topped off with pomegranate seeds. Brunch standards such as bloodies and mimosas come to life thanks to bloody Mary ice cubes and blood orange ice cubes, respectively. Completing the icy proceedings, poolside cabana bottle service is offered “in ice,” whereby the bottle of your choice is placed in a hand-chiseled ice bucket that was sculpted overnight just for your bottle.
• Housed in a century-old mansion in the city’s River North section, the SideDoor in Chicago is a casual gastropub that features the talents of spirits director Andrew Macker, who creates smoked ice by first placing water in the kitchen’s industrial-sized meat smoker, then freezing the water into two-inch cubes. The Smoked Negroni features FEW barrel-aged gin, Aperol and Punt e Mes served over a smoked ice cube that imparts its smokiness as it melts.
• Also in Chicago, TWO, a West Side hangout Influenced by family-run butcher shops sources from small Midwestern farms and offers a rotating selection of local craft beers. Bartender Graham Crowe’s Bay Street Cocktail, made with rye, features an ice cube composed of house-made IPA beer syrup, orange peel and orange bitters. As the cube melts, the cocktail transforms to become darker and more complex, making it an excellent transition cocktail between courses.
• The Woodshed Smokehouse, wildly inventive chef Tim Love’s popular restaurant on the banks of the Trinity River in Fort Worth, Texas, showcases wood as a flavor component in several menu items, from the conventional (barbecue) to the offbeat (olives, tomatoes). The bar staff uses flavorful smoked ice in several cocktails, including the signature Smoky Margarita.