Drink Trend: Ice is the New Star of Creative Cocktails
Courtesy of Ballo
When the bartender at Parallel Post in Trumbull presents a small balloon and pair of scissors, customers say, “What?!” But this burst balloon isn’t full of hot air— inside is a 2-inch sphere of ice.
Ice is fun — and serious business — these days in the creative cocktails bartenders are shaking up across the state. At Parallel Post, “Bootleg Greg” Genias is inspired. A highball of his gin and tonic upgrade is dominated by a single 2-by-2-inch-square cube. Its sides are lined and its center bisected with cucumber slices. And the ice itself is frozen cucumber juice. Each cocktail here gets special ice. A cube of frozen citrus rind with a house-made brandied cherry, the stem poking out of the ice; a big sphere; a tumble of mini cubes.
Ice “pebbles” are one of three ice treatments used in the cocktails at Baró, a new tapas place in Fairfield. The Southtown, a vodka, lime, jalapeño, mint and cilantro concoction, is served in a Collins glass piled with tiny ice pebbles. Baró also has a Kold Draft ice machine that makes 1¼-inch square cubes. “They’re very condensed, and they don’t dilute the drink when you shake it,” says Juan Reyes, co-owner of the contemporary Latin restaurant. Tequila on the rocks? Baro rocks it with just one 2-by-2-inch cube. “It doesn’t melt,” he says. “Your last sip is the same as your first.”
Some mixologists turn the ice cube into an ingredient that changes a drink’s flavor as it melts. John Ginnetti, owner of 116 Crown in New Haven, has been known to freeze a Japanese beer, Hitachino Nest Ginger Brew, into a 3-inch sphere. “As you drink, the ginger flavor gets more and more intense.” While many focus on shape, to Ginnetti “the biggest deal with ice is purity.” The Kold Draft system filters water three times and freezes the cubes upside down, which removes the impurities.
“Boston Mike” Mills at Max Downtown in Hartford uses six types of ice behind the bar—including smoked ice. He smokes water and freezes it in 2-by-2-inch molds. He pours Vanilla on a Rock over smoked ice. That’s bourbon, infused with Tahitian vanilla beans and citrus zest, shaken with dry curaçao and bitters. “As the ice melts, the smoke enhances the vanilla,” he says. Rare bourbons ($30-$50 a glass!) are “woken up” with a 3-inch sphere of ice.
At Ballo in Mohegan Sun, the most popular cocktail is the Limonata (pictured above). Spirit Italian vodka and San Pellegrino sparkling lemonade is graced with a sphere of frozen blood-orange juice. It’s meant to melt. “As it melts, it adds flavor, sweetens the drink and changes its color,” says Luke Martin, a manager. One downside: The cocktail tastes so good, it’s hard to drink slowly. And that blood orange cube melting in the empty glass? Guests crunch on it— while waiting for their second Limonata.