After taking a brief leave of absence (four months is brief right?) from booze blogging, I think it’s time I freshen up this Real McCoy. Despite neglecting that blinking cursor for a while, I’ve continued to stay focused behind the bar. Private gigs and another successful guest bartending stint at The Temple Bar have kept me busy, and I’m ecstatic for what lies ahead – a permanent home for all my mixing, shaking and stirring (more on that soon).
Now how should I begin this…? I know! How about channeling the one-hit wonder boy Vanilla Ice – “Alright stop, collaborate and listen. Ice is essential in every cocktail you’re mixin.” It’s true. In the first printed definition of a cocktail from The Balance & Columbian Repository of 1806, it states a cocktail is a “stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” Water, as in the frozen cubed variety. I touched on this topic briefly in an article I wrote for the Bellingham Herald. I basically said ice should never be overlooked. A bartender who takes cocktails seriously, takes ice seriously. I would “chill” with that bartender any day.
Ice is a crucial ingredient in cocktails for a simple reason – dillution. The wrong ice for a cocktail can lead to over-dilution, or a drink that’s not dilluted enough. This is why attention to detail and choosing the right-sized ice cube is key. Spirit-heavy drinks, such as an Old Fashioned, should have a long lasting relationship with its ice. If the ice were to melt too quickly you would get a watered down mess in your glass. In making these style of drinks it’s best to use larger cubed ice, which is the reason some craft cocktail bars are hand carving their ice.
And how does ice relate to a drink like the classic gin martini? The philosophy is similar: you don’t want to over-dillute. Shaking a martini could water down your gin and ruin the aroma and taste. Here, a gentle stir of the ice will do. On the other side of the ice equation, tiki-style drinks like the Zombie and concentrated drinks such as mint juleps work best with crushed ice . You want to use ice that will melt as fast as Vanilla Ice’s career. A fast dillution will make these drinks instantly palatable.
So next time you’re mixing a well-crafted cocktail, remember – it’s not all about the liquor. Give ice the proper respect it deserves and your drink will be that much better. Word to your mother.