3 of a Kind: Artisan Ice

Find out how creative bartenders are shaking up the cocktail scene with innovative ice cubes in unexpected flavors.

3 of a Kind checks out three places across the country to try something cool, new and delicious.

Mixologists have been shaking things up behind the bar with rare spirits and unexpected ingredients ever since the craft cocktail movement gained momentum across the country, but some are now expanding their creativity even further by experimenting with an oft-overlooked element of the drink: the ice cube. Their efforts — part science, part art — have resulted in a whole new way to change the flavor profile of a cocktail or balance out a single spirit.

The Sixth, Chicago

The bartenders at this Lincoln Square neighborhood bar are mixing up some of the most-inventive cocktails in the city, in large part due to their use of ice. “Ice is to a bartender like heat is to a chef,” says Benjamin Schiller, who helms the bar program for The Sixth (and serves as bar director for the entire Fifty/50 group). Their thought was to implement ice in a way that makes the cocktails more flavorful, instead of its usually intended purpose of diluting a drink. Schiller makes a cocktail, The Doris (named for his grandmother), which has a full rose frozen into the ice cube. In addition to achieving a striking visual, Schiller’s inclusion of the flower also complements the cocktail’s floral-centric ingredients of orange blossom water and rose water. He also uses liquid nitrogen to create a ginger habanero snow for the Drinky McDrinkerson. The playful Silly Rabbit cocktail, inspired by Trix cereal, contains four ice cubes that emulate the cereal’s fruity flavors. After the drink itself — lime juice, soda and housemade mint bitters — is poured on top, the cocktail slowly changes flavor over time as the ice melts.

Lilt Lounge, Miami

At this hip downtown Miami lounge, bartender Spencer Taliaferro has created an ice program called In Ice We Trust. The housemade cubes in a variety of flavors such as ginger elderflower have the capacity to change a cocktail’s profile upon each sip. For instance, Taliaferro uses mezcal- and mango-infused ice in his White “Bulldog” Negroni made with Bulldog Gin, Cocchi Americano and Grand Poppy liqueur. The smoky and sweet ice cubes play well with the citrus and spice notes of the Cocchi Americano. Even the classic gin and tonic gets twisted up here, thanks to Taliaferro’s addition of Peychaud’s and absinthe cubes, housemade tonic and Lillet Blanc cubes.

Photo by: Wayne E. Chinnock, Wayne E. Chinnock ©© Wayne E. Chinnock Photography 2015, © Wayne E. Chinnock Photography 2015

Wayne E. Chinnock, Wayne E. Chinnock, © Wayne E. Chinnock Photography 2015, © Wayne E. Chinnock Photography 2015

CafeArtScience, Cambridge, Mass.

Todd Maul has been known for his mad-scientist ways behind the bar, so the fact that he has established a stellar ice program is no surprise. He makes sure that his ice stays colder than negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit, keeping the drink cold but not diluting the flavor. His S & G cocktail contains ice made with mango juice, Aperol and agricole rum. The three ingredients are frozen in circular molds, and the resulting ice is then stacked in a cocktail glass with crushed ice before the other components — Clément Select Barrel Rum, El Dorado 3, mango, clarified lime, Cherry Heering, orgeat and pomegranate molasses — are added. The Whaftiki, Maul’s riff on a tiki drink, contains two different flavored cubes: One is composed of mango, orange and pineapple juices cut with Clément orange shrub; the other features toasted and blended almonds, along with amaretto, orgeat and vodka. As the flavors of the melting cubes seep into the cocktail, the ultimate taste of the tropics shines through.

Photos courtesy of The Sixth, Lilt Lounge and CafeArtScience
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