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The Ice Topic: Crushed, Cracked, Cubes, Balls, Alternatives

222 posts in this topic

I have begun to realize that a much neglected aspect of bartending is ice. A well known D.C. chef, whom I won't say since it was just in passing, commented on how a well made gin & tonic is the product of good ice. I'm curious, does anyone have information or literature on types of ice, temp, size?

Also, what's the deal with shaken and stirred. I used to believe shaking is a bad thing for most gin-based and non-fruity drinks, but now I'm not so sure. I realize that shaking is specifically for the purpose of getting the temperature low quick. But the ice shards are disconcerting for someone like me who loves the undiluted taste of a good gin.

For disclosure sake, I will say I'm not just curious... I may write on the subject but kind of feel lost where to start.

Anyone got some tips, or just tell me your experience.


“Let us candidly admit that there are shameful blemishes on the American past, of which the worst by far is rum. Nevertheless, we have improved man's lot and enriched his civilization with rye, bourbon and the Martini cocktail. In all history has any other nation done so much?”

Bernard De Voto (1897-1955) American writer and critic.

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Correct ice is important.

A few cocktails come to mind that are best, and should only be, served with cracked ice.

There has been some discussion on eG about the differences of shaken v. stirred. Search! (I believe MatthewB started a thread on "How do you shake your tail?" about a year ago). However, in a nutshell: stirred produces a silky mouthfeel for the chilled down spirit and shaken makes it lighter and airy-er (not a word, but I'm sure this stretch isn't all that bad). Those little ice chips occur during "bruising." Some love them, others hate them.

As far as information on types and sizes of ice, check out some of the ice machine manufacturers. There are some that are chips, full cubes, the little cubes with an indentation on one side (as a bartender, I *hate* those) and I do remember the round ones that are both large or small in size with a hole through the middle. I'm sure there are others....

Does any of this help?

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I prefer full cubes.

My freezer at home, unfortunately, produces "semicircle" ice, and I hate, hate, HATE it. Once my wife and I find a house, I intend to buy a small ice machine. The stupid semicircles are precisely the same curvature as the side of a highball, so whenever I make a gin and tonic I have to "swirl" the glass to keep the stupid ice from clinging to the side of the glass and forming a force field against my lips. Worst. Ice. Ever.


Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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for some drinks, mint julep, comes to mind only crushed ice works, one place i tended bar at had a machine that made these tiny round pieces of ice. it worked great for crushed ice drinks

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If I'm shaking a cocktail, I prefer the cubes out of the ice tray as is -- I find that cracked or crushed ice waters down the drink too much and results in ice bits in the drink, which I, personally, hate.

When I'm stirring, I find that smaller chunks of ice chill the drink down faster and more evenly, so I usually either crack the cubes into two or three pieces, or, since two of my ice cube trays seem to crack the ice on their own, I use the ice from them.

When I'm building a drink, it depends on whether I pre-chill the drink before I pour it over the ice. If so, I go for big cubes. If not, I go for crushed ice (I have a hand cranked crusher) so the drink cools faster. Unless, of course it's a straight spirit, like Scotch, on the rocks. Then I like big cubes.

All of this is for home drink making -- a bar or restaurant won't generally have the choice (except for my favorite, which gets ice in big cubes, cracks some, and crushes some -- by hand. Man, I love that place.)


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
Manager
jzimmerman@eGullet.org
eG Ethics signatory
Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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All of this is for home drink making -- a bar or restaurant won't generally have the choice (except for my favorite, which gets ice in big cubes, cracks some, and crushes some -- by hand. Man, I love that place.)

Okay, JAZ, which place? Come on... fess up!

My favorite for juleps is not crushed but shaved ice.

Cheers, Squeat

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All of this is for home drink making -- a bar or restaurant won't generally have the choice (except for my favorite, which gets ice in big cubes, cracks some, and crushes some -- by hand. Man, I love that place.)

Okay, JAZ, which place? Come on... fess up!

Nizza La Bella in Albany, which is actually a small bistro, with a very small bar. But they make fabulous drinks. (They also have great french fries.)


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
Manager
jzimmerman@eGullet.org
eG Ethics signatory
Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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Am I the only one who thought this thread was started for suggestions on what cocktails to serve AC/DC fans?

I happen to like my drinks frothy with shards of ice, so I shake almost everything. But after our discussion here a while back I tried stirring a few times to see if I was missing out. I found, like JAZ, that cracked ice works better then cubes for stirring. I also agree that crushed ice from a hand cranked thing works the best for tall drinks you serve over ice with fizz. You can still pick them up fairly cheaply from Goodwill and garage sales and they're much sturdier then the "retro" ones for sale at kitchen places.

regards,

trillium

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Am I the only one who thought this thread was started for suggestions on what cocktails to serve AC/DC fans?

I am an AC/DC fan, so good call. Thanks for all your replies.


“Let us candidly admit that there are shameful blemishes on the American past, of which the worst by far is rum. Nevertheless, we have improved man's lot and enriched his civilization with rye, bourbon and the Martini cocktail. In all history has any other nation done so much?”

Bernard De Voto (1897-1955) American writer and critic.

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Ice is important. When we go to The Cabin, the fridge is not on when we arrive. Since it has an in-fridge freezer, we can't make ice rapidly, nor can we make "good" ice. So, at one of the last possible places, we buy ice. I much prefer the ice at the Spur station in Cook, Mn to that purchased at the IGA in Orr, MN. Reasons follow.

Which brings me to bags of ice. We have learned which brands to buy. I prefer the "big" ice (in our case, where are purchasing ice, it's Twin Pines Ice) over "small" ice (Polar something ice which is what the IGA in Orr carries). Paul does not understand this, until I make a cocktail.

You can shatter "big" ice. Or stir in a cocktail. Or, pour cold coca-cola over it. It doesn't instantly dissolve, dilulting whatever you are serving.

"Small" ice is not nearly so versitile.

So, we will stop at the Spur in Cook tomorrow night.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Here's the gin & tonic secret: make the ice cubes out of tonic water! The watered down g&t is now a physical impossibility (well, sorta... it helps, though).


Edited by cjsadler (log)

Chris Sadler

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I like to chill my drinks and then keep them cold so I like to use some crushed ice and some cubes. This gets and keeps the drink cold. not letting the drink sit around also helps.


Edward Hamilton

Ministry of Rum.com

The Complete Guide to Rum

When I dream up a better job, I'll take it.

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So donbert sent me this link earlier [not sure how he found it, but it is awesome].

It is a bartender in Japan who is carving a ball of ice to fit inside a rocks glass.

Ice Ball Video

He used the ice ball for a whiskey on the ice ball.

Whiskey on the ice ball.

My question -- we all have gone out of our way for ice, but would you do this?

Don't get me wrong, this is super cool. I may actually try my hand at making the ice ball, but I am sure it will take me longer then the 5 minutes it took him.

He is my idol. I just wish I could read Japanese on his website.


John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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Certainly looks neat--no question the guy is an artist, but is what he made there any more functional than the cube he started with (provided it will fit in the glass)? Seems like it would be better to not have it out of the freezer and handling (and warming) it all that time.

-Andy


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Thanks for the link. I remember hearing about it a few years ago.

Its definitely skilful, but it seems pointless (as in spherical!-)

Does the person it is for have to pre-order a certain number of glasses of whisky to make it worth the bartenders while?

Cheers!

George

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I don't know, but maybe he does it in the same way some people whittle wood, as it is relaxing. It would be pretty cool to have a whole freezer full of these.


John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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Hell, even the octagon he gets at the beginning is pretty impressive. Do any of the chemists here know if ice has any special cleavage properties he's exploiting?

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I found these videos while looking for videos of the mythical "hard shake".

I'm definitely going to try it, but I need to get a cheaper knife first. It looks like the bartender is using a regular stamped knife and there's no way that I'm going to mess up my good knives for this. :hmmm:

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Seems like a pointless and needlessly overcomplicated practice to me, the kind of fetishization of a piece of culture that seems somewhat peculiar to the Japanese zeitgeist (as does the so-called "hard shake"). What's next: Hand-carved natural reed cocktail straws? Olives pitted by hand and stuffed to order?

If one really wants spherical pieces of ice, I think it should be possible to develop some kind of flexible mold that could be filled and frozen.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I'd like to know how long ago he lost all feeling in his left hand? Holding a chunk of ice in your bare hands for 4-5 minutes, is no daunting task. While the quality of the video leaves much to be desired, there does appear to be some redness in his finger tips after a few minutes.

geezus, I don't know...

woodburner

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I found these videos while looking for videos of the mythical "hard shake".

I'm definitely going to try it, but I need to get a cheaper knife first. It looks like the bartender is using a regular stamped knife and there's no way that I'm going to mess up my good knives for this.  :hmmm:

WHAT IS THE HARD SHAKE?

Shaking is a method of combining and chilling cocktail ingredients by shaking them together with ice. This is especially good for mixing a number of ingredients varying in difficult to mix consistencies such as cream, egg whites and syrups. Although the style of shaking may differ depending on the bartender, the common objective is the same, that of mixing and chilling. However, there is another objective involved aside from the above mentioned that differs from cocktails made from stirring, that of making smooth cocktails by softening the ingredients and alcohol. This has led to my inventing of the method I call "Hard Shake".

Let's suppose that the elements of liquor are in the shape of a square. In general, most would envision shaking as method of trimming and rounding the four-corners of it. However, I envision the process as the "square shaped" liquor swelling in a circular fashion, through mixing it with the bubbles. The bubbles would act as a cushion preventing one's tongue from direct contact with the harshness of the ingredients and liquor, leading to a smoother taste. As each of the liquor's elements comes together, the result is an added taste as well as fine-grained bubbles. This is ultimately what I strive for with my "Hard Shake".

An Encounter with the "Hard Shake"

It is really quite perplexing that the final taste of the bartender's finished product differs from bartender to bartender even though cocktails essentially consist of the same ingredients and are made using more or less the same recipes. Since becoming more and more aware of this, I have experimented with various methods for mixing cocktails, as nothing pleases me more than to make cocktails that my customers will enjoy the taste of. As a result I have discovered that by shaking the shaker with all my might results in bubbles of finer-grain consistency. My customers have pointed out that the very flavor of the alcohol in my cocktails is much milder, and I attribute this to the fine, velvety bubbles that form from the "Hard Shake" method. This has become an important theme of my shaking method. I continue to strive to make the very best cocktail and have altered my shaking style over time.

I believe that bubbles cannot be effectively created through mere ordinary shaking. Accordingly, I have come up with a complex three step shaking method that involves snapping of the wrists, and twisting the shaker while holding it in a slanted position. I have created the "Hard Shake" prototype from this (see diagram). I have been wrestling with different methods for creating a more complex cocktail flavor and have found that the larger the shaking movements are, the less complex it becomes. It is difficult to combine but easier to chill. Also, the bubbles that form are also different. My present shaking style has resulted from much effort to create a more efficient shaking style.

Ascertaining Successful Utilization of the "Hard Shake" Method

Since Shaking uses ice, although chilling is rather simple, mixing ingredients can be extremely difficult. A presupposition of the "Hard Shaking" method is that various ingredients can be hard-to-combine when utilizing it. "Hard Shaking" with no technique involved will result in a diluted, watery cocktail due to the ice within the shaker melting too much. However, when properly combined, the melted ice within the shaker will blend with the ingredients. A clear sign of a poorly combined cocktail using the "Hard Shake" method is a diluted cocktail.

The only way to ascertain whether the "Hard Shake" method has been performed properly is by drinking the final product and judging it yourself. A diluted taste means that the ingredients and the ice have not been properly mixed. Another sign of a well shaken cocktail is the forming of a whipped cream-like frost gravitating towards the top of the cocktail.

Optimal Ingredients for the "Hard Shake"

Certain ingredients will more easily bring out the strong points of the "Hard Shake" method. The best of these ingredients is cream. When cream is shacked as hard-to-combine, a whipped cream-like substance forms. It is a very suitable ingredient for practicing the "Hard Shake" method and it produces another taste sensation that cannot be found using other shaking methods. Although citrus fruit juices, especially lemon and lime, also bring out the strong points of the "Hard Shake" method, the bubbles they produce are only regarded as normal bubbles. Sustaining the bubbles will result in a more well-balanced sweet and sour as well as mild taste.

There are brands that are fit for and not fit for creating a proper base for the cocktail. After cocktail ingredients are broken down within the shaker, they are then all mixed and combined, coming together as one. Accordingly, a finished drink needs a brand that will demonstrate a certain uniqueness and one that will leave an impression on the base. Such spirits are demanded from cocktails made using the "Hard Shake" method. However, it is very difficult to judge this until the >Hard Shake" process is complete. Even if you use firm ingredients, there is always the chance that they may be too strong and damage the base. It's hard to tell whether this is ultimately due to the ingredients or due to over-shaking.

Examples of some suitable and durable ingredients for "Hard Shaking" are Gordon's for gin, Smirnoff for vodka, and Bacardi for white rum (there are of course other suitable ingredients). I would like to select ingredients that will retain their consistencies even when bubbles are formed.

Fine Grained Ice Floating atop the Cocktail.

Utilizing the "Hard Shake" method will result in fine grains of ice forming within the shaker. After pouring the cocktail into a glass, these grains float to the surface of the glass. I have discovered that adding this ice to the cocktail enhances the taste and further chills it. This discovery is nothing more than a by-product of the "Hard Shake" method. An extra feature of the "Hard Shake" method is that these fine grains of ice will also form by turning the shaker completely upside down. However, you will not be utilizing the "Hard Shake" method properly if you only focus on forming these fine grains of ice. Although the ice circulates within the shaker, it will ultimately just hit against the bottom of the shaker and break into small pieces. In the end, each piece of ice must be shaved down by strongly shaking the shaker. If performed properly, circular ice will form within the shaker. This may be the best way of ascertaining successful utilization of the "Hard Shaking" method.

Kazuo Ueda

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If one really wants spherical pieces of ice, I think it should be possible to develop some kind of flexible mold that could be filled and frozen.

Possibly easier would be a mold of the type used for casting bullets and fishing weights from lead, just two pieces that clamp together with the shape in the middle, fill with lead (or water) and cool (or freeze).


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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WHAT IS THE HARD SHAKE?

....

I was under the impression that there was a technique difference btween the "Japanese Hard Shake" and the way bartenders in the US are shaking drinks hard at high end cocktail estabilishments. Here are some theories/rumors I've heard so far about the this "Japanese Hard Shake":

1.) The "Hard Shake" is done useing a 3 piece shaker not a boston shaker.

2.) The "Hard Shake" is done with both hands/arms with one shaker at a time.

3.) The "Hard Shake" involves a flapping motion with the elbows (not sure why).

4.) The "Hard Shake" attempts to shake in a rolling motion that knocks the ice/liquids against 4 sides of the shaker instead of just 2.

5.) There is a Japanese DVD of the "Hard Shake" being performed with detailed explantions of each step and variations that different Japanese Bartender's have come up with.

Can anyone confirm or deny these rumors? Has anyone seen this DVD? (And if so can someone send me a copy?)

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If one really wants spherical pieces of ice, I think it should be possible to develop some kind of flexible mold that could be filled and frozen.

Possibly easier would be a mold of the type used for casting bullets and fishing weights from lead, just two pieces that clamp together with the shape in the middle, fill with lead (or water) and cool (or freeze).

I have seen just such a device either at Jas Mart, Sunrise, or Mitsuwa. I'll see if I can find it again. I recall not buying it because it didn't seem worth the price to make one sphere of ice at a time.

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