Nation’s Restaurant News: Improved ice shines in the restaurant cocktail scene

NRN-IMcubes Nation’s Restaurant News: Improved ice shines in the restaurant cocktail scene

The following excerpts are from the Nation’s Restaurant News article

Savvy operators know the right kind of ice is integral to the success of their cocktail programs.

Restaurant operators have always relied on ice in abundance to chill beverages. Now, an increasing number of them are appreciating the quality as well as the quantity.

Ice is cool today. The purity, coldness, clarity, and melt rate of the cubes are all key factors in a cocktail’s quality.

“Ice is to a bartender what fire is to a chef,” declares Julian Cox, beverage director of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, the Chicago-based multi-concept restaurant group. Just as no chef could create a great meal on a bunsen burner, no bartender can produce great drinks with ice that is soft, watery or off-tasting, Cox says.

Today’s popular specialty cocktails tend to be stirred, shaken and presented with ice equal in quality to the artisan spirits, fresh juices, house-made bitters and fancy glassware in use. The frozen stuff appears in many shapes and sizes — cubes, crescents, crushed, pellets and unique hand carved and custom frozen shapes.

And it’s not just about looks. A single, large cube melts very slowly, maintaining the integrity of fine spirits longer…

Cool ice is a hallmark of the trendy libations that are big moneymakers in restaurants. “Cocktails contribute to a tremendous amount of profitability, better than beer and wine,” says Aaron Allen, an Orlando, Florida-based restaurant consultant. In addition, distinctive cocktails differentiate dining concepts and create social media buzz when guests share pictures of flashy drinks on Instagram, Vine, and Pinterest, Allen notes.

Ice cubes that are hard, free of bubbles and cloudiness and untainted by off tastes are the standard for mixology today. A scoop of square, standard cubes dropped into a mixing tin provides the rapid chilling and controlled dilution essential for shaken drinks that combine spirits with juices, eggs or dairy. Such ice is also fine for stirring all-spirits drinks.

A spirits-driven cocktail like a Manhattan, stirred over ice and strained into a glass with a single large cube, can be sipped slowly for a spell without much dilution. In contrast, smaller forms of ice, which have greater surface area and melt more quickly, are desirable for a drink that is lighter, more refreshing and consumed more quickly.

Behind a successful cocktail program, typically there is a high-performing commercial ice machine producing superior ice. Hoshizaki models, for example, make five distinctive types of ice for different beverage applications: crescent-shaped cubes, square cubes and top-hat-shaped cubes for cocktails, plus cubelet ice and flaked ice for beverages poured from dispensers.

Take crescent cubes, for example. They nestle in the glass and displace liquid better than grid cell ice, giving a cocktail a greater volume display and a higher profit. They also last longer in the ice bin after production, thus saving utility costs. In contrast, grid cell ice stored in a bin melts 18 percent faster than crescent cubes over a 24-hour period. Finally, the smooth, round surface of the crescent cubes permits less splashing when pricey spirits are poured, a vital cost saver at the bar.

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