If you watch closely next time you’re at a high-end cocktail bar, you’ll see the bartenders often pay as much attention to the ice as they do the rest of the ingredients. Bars like Milk and Honey in NYC have even gone as far to call for specific types of ice depending on the drink. They’re not alone in giving attention to the ice in the drinks they make. In Japan many bartenders carve ice cubes by hand from large, crystal clear blocks, for each customer. A perfectly round ice cube is highly sought after because it melts much more slowly than ice cubes with straight edges.
Stark Spirits Distillery, a Pasadena micro-distillery, makes award-winning spirits that make every cocktail something special to drink. , Here is some good advice for connoisseurs of the hometown spirits made by your good neighbors, Greg and Karen Stark. The mystique of ice is a new concept, but it is a well-established fact in the spirits industry that good tasting spirits require good tasting water. All Stark Spirits products are made with water that’s been filtered, and the value of doing so is evident in the taste. Here is what they told Pasadena Now about the most important ingredient in any great cocktail.
The most important ingredient in any cocktail is a quality spirit and a mixer that doesn’t submerge its flavor, but enhances it. Many cocktails are made with such sweet ingredients that the drink tastes more like fruit juice or a soft drink. A drinker frequently has no perception of the alcohol initially and often quickly downs another, which can lead to overindulgence. The Starks suggest the best way to enjoy spirits is neat, nothing added, which is not very common during the current cocktail revival. Adding ice to neat spirits makes a drink “straight.” The addition of ice often opens up the aroma and flavor of the spirit. The benefit of drinking either neat or straight spirits is that it provides the opportunity to enjoy the attributes of the spirit itself.
However, cocktails are in great demand, much more than spirits served neat or straight. Few cocktails are served without ice in their preparation. Ice not only chills your drink but also provides an amount of dilution to the alcohol while it enhances your tasting experience. A common misstep when making cocktails at home is not using enough ice to dilute your drink adequately. Here are some tips on how long to mix your drink:
• Shaken: When using a stainless steel shaker, you will know your drink is diluted (and chilled) at the proper level once your shaker gets a frosty look and feel. Try using a Boston Shaker so you get a better feel on the drink than using a plastic.
• Stirred: Making cocktails in a mixing glass will require you to watch the edges of the ice cubes as you stir them in with a bar spoon. When the cubes round off that’s your cue that the mix is ready and it’s time to pour and serve.
Great tasting water, and thus, great tasting ice is made from a reverse osmosis filter, but many people don’t have this in their homes. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a bag of ice if you’re on the go and in a hurry, but it’s easy to make good quality ice right at home. If you love the taste of a great cocktail here are a few ways, you can make it better by improving the quality of your ice, give these easy tricks a try:
• Taking cold tap water and boil it on the stove – twice. Then let it cool each time you bring it to a boil. Twice is good, but the more times you boil the water the purer that water will be and the better tasting the ice.
• Take a clean plastic container that will easily fit into your freezer and pour in the boiled water once it has cooled. Let the block of ice fully freeze.
• Take the ice out of the freezer and remove from the plastic container. Use a serrated edged knife or cleaver to saw into the ice, three lines on each side. Don’t cut the block all the way through. Instead, go about halfway through then use a clean, flathead screwdriver to break the ice into cubes.
• Now your ice is good to go. Use as is, or crush it up and in cocktails like a julep or a whiskey smash.
• Take it a step further and use the above process while adding herbs, flowers, or other flavors to the ice before freezing. You can also use pickle juice and horseradish in your ice cubes and use them with a Bloody Mary.
If you want a great cocktail, you should use quality ice. You and your guests will appreciate the difference this change makes in the flavor of your cocktail. Excellent quality ice will maintain the quality of your excellent Stark Spirits cocktail.
Stark Spirits Distillery is located at 1260 Lincoln Ave #1100, in Pasadena. For more information, call (626) 798-1377 or schedule a visit online at starkspirits.com.