One of the most impressive feats of modern bartending is the giant, crystal-clear ice cube. Though it may seem like it’s just there to look cool, there is an actual reason why bartenders prefer an oversized block to a handful of cubes. And that reason has science to back it up.
Richard Boccato knows his way around ice. The founder and managing partner of ice producer Hundredweight Ice and adjoining cocktail bar Dutch Kills in Long Island City, New York, opened his businesses 10 years ago, but he has been working with large format ice for close to 15 years. At Hundredweight, he and his team produce 300-pound blocks of ice, which they then carve into various shapes and sizes for the variety of cocktails on the menu at Dutch Kills. The company also delivers ice to clients around the city.
When Boccato began the process of opening Dutch Kills with co-owner Ian Present and the late industry great Sasha Petraske, he made sure ice was a top priority. They purchased a Clinebell Block Ice Maker, a machine that produces 100-pound blocks of clear ice intended for ice sculptors. It fulfilled his every icy desire, but as the bar—and demand for high-quality ice around NYC—grew, so did a new business. Hundredweight Ice began operations in 2011, two years after Dutch Kills opened its doors, and it’s been producing some of the city’s best ice ever since.
Now, with Boccato’s ice credentials out of the way, let’s get back to that giant cube. According to Boccato, bigger is always better when it comes to ice—especially if you don’t want a watery drink. There’s less surface area on that big cube of ice than there would be on multiple smaller cubes, he explains. “It’s going to give you a much greater advantage over time and temperature,” he adds. Essentially, a larger cube is going to melt slower, which slows down the dilution of the drink.
Giant ice isn’t just for cocktail bars. A couple of oversized molds will help you instantly take your home cocktailing game to the next level. “Ice is to the bartender as the flame is to the chef,” Boccato says. “If you’re going to go through the necessary measures at home to introduce fine spirits and fresh ingredients to your cocktails, it certainly does behoove you to think of the caliber of frozen water that you’re introducing into your cocktails as being as, if not more, important than some of the other ingredients.” So, as the old saying goes, go big or go home—where you should also go big.