The one presentation I could not pass up at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic was the Ice Capades. It had nothing to do with Disney characters on the Madison Square Garden ice, especially since the Rangers were playing there. This was a presentation on the history and use of ice in cocktails.
Sounds kind of boring, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. (Unfortunately, I missed the first 10 minutes of the history lesson because I was busy tasting the wonderful spirits of Dancing Pines Distillery and lost track of time.) Fortunately, I only missed some of the history lesson–I still caught the crazy (and not-so-crazy) ice trends.
The presenter discussed the use of flavored ice in cocktails. He noted that it changes the flavor of the cocktail as you drink, but it’s inconsistent because all the alcohol sinks to the bottom of the ice when frozen using traditional methods. However, when done properly in smaller cubes, it can create an interesting cocktail (but they didn’t provide any samples).
Of course, now the trend is returning to the classic large clear ice cubes that fill most of the glass. These ice blocks tend to melt slower and chill the drink more evenly. As you drink, the large ice cubes begin looking like icebergs in the way they melt. The clear ice (as opposed to the cloudy ice I get out of my freezer) makes the cocktail more visually appealing, but I don’t think it affects the taste.
The part that I was most upset about missing was the discussion of 10,000-year-old glacial ice imported from Greenland. A coworker informed me that it’s been used in cocktails since at least the ’70s, and it costs a small fortune. Somehow it ended up in a cooler at the High West Distillery room. I had a piece in a cocktail–it popped and crackled as it melted. I don’t know what sort of ancient bacteria I now have floating around my body.