“Ice matters,” says Mark Politzer, the master of ceremonies at the tony meat market in Georgetown, where he just purchased a $3,500 Kold-Draft machine from Pennsylvania that makes square ice cubes in different sizes.
Politzer spent the past four months selling his bosses on the notion, and he even brought in ice in different shapes to make his point. It wasn’t easy: The restaurant’s three-year old ice-maker was working just fine and unlike, say, new dishes on the menu, “ice doesn’t bring any more guests in.”
But square ice “doesn’t melt as fast” as regular cubes, preaches Politzer. Slow-melting ice means customers experience the “true flavor of the cocktail.”
In addition to its new Kold-Draft equipment, Bourbon Steak is getting a $2,000 Japanese freezer to make ice in different shapes and flavors. Your next mojito in the lounge may include mint-infused cylindrical ice, for instance.
“If I were to open a restaurant today,” says Politzer, a fancy ice maker “is the first thing I’d put in.” From the Pegu Club in New York to Bar Agricole in San Francisco – and all across Fly Over Land (Aviary in Chicago counts a staff member who just cuts ice) - craft cocktails have never been hotter. Among the top local watering holes are PX , the glam speakeasy in Alexandria that chills some of its drinks with smoke-infused cubes; PS 7’s , the Penn Quarter restaurant with elaborate drinks created by Gina Chersevani; and The Passenger and Columbia Room , sibling side-by-side bars near the Convention Center. The last, a jewel box tucked inside the Passenger, serves ice in the form of diamonds and balls — carved by hand.
Bourbon Steak is introducing the big chill to a wider audience. On a busy night, the restaurant’s bar shakes and stirs cocktails for as many as 250 drinkers. “Half the night,” jokes Politzer, “I play bouncer.”