A Lesson in Ice from the Violet Hour
This is a really interesting bit of information that showed up in my inbox this afternoon from a restaurant in Wicker Park...who'da thunk there was so much to know about ice?! Read on and be amazed...:)
The creation of a well-balanced cocktail includes several essential
elements, and at the Violet Hour, they've got the fundamentals of cocktail
construction down to a science. In order to understand the art of mixology,
we continue an educational series from Toby Maloney, partner and head
mixologist at the Violet Hour, now focusing on ice.
The mantra at the Violet Hour is that ice is as important to a bartender
as a stove is to a chef. "Chefs heat things up to change the flavor of
their food," explains Maloney. "Conversely, bartenders cool things down.
Inferior ice would be the equivalent of a broken stove." Ice is about
chilling a cocktail to the optimal temperature while imparting the correct
water content. Using the right ice for the right glass and shaking or
stirring technique is what produces the most balanced cocktail.
The eight kinds of ice used are: cubes, chunk, shards, crushed, cheater,
cracked, block and swizzle. As Maloney assures, "There is a reason for each
and every type of ice." Cubed ice is made from a Kold Draft machine, which
produces ice that is 30 percent colder than normal ice. It won't break down
and turn into slush, which is why it's used for shaking.
Chunk ice is hand-chiseled every day into thick rectangles, after freezing
overnight in hotel pans. The bulky ice won't break down and can actually be
re-used if the second drink is the exact same as the first.
Icicle-shaped shard ice is frozen in molds and used for Collins glasses.
Crushed ice is fit for any glass, but primarily used for drinks that
require more water dilution, as the ice is so small and will melt quicker.
Cheater ice is what's used to place bottles in to chill. It is never used
Cracked ice, made from Kold Draft ice, is also used to add more water
content, sometimes used for stirring drinks.
Block ice, made from a mold, gets shaved with a plane to make small ice
Finally, swizzle ice is formed on the outside of a metal julep cup,
created through condensation by swizzling crushed ice inside the cup.
The final point from Maloney is the importance of shaking correctly.
"Bartenders are trained to shake by feel and tone, rather than a specific
time," he says. "Shaking a drink is an art form, all about extracting the
precise amount of water content from the ice and filling glasses
appropriately. Ice is the basic building block ... or cube, in the
the Violet Hour
Mixologist Toby Maloney
Chef Mike Ryan
1520 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
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