Cool as Ice

Nationwide, bar whizzes are experimenting with infused ice.

Just when we thought we'd seen it all—twice-infused liquors, artisanal syrups—now innovative bartenders are tinkering with the last element of cocktails: the ice. Some are dressing up cubes by encasing bits of fruit or flower petals inside; others are adding flavors and colors; still others are using ice for sheer dramatic effect.

At New York's Pamplona, chef and owner Alex Ureña offers "The Moor 10" (right), putting an unusual Spanish twist on the classic gin and tonic with the addition of saffron-infused ice.

"It's about the taste and the color," Ureña explains. He mixes and freezes simple syrup and saffron. As the cubes melt, they impart a faint yellow color and gradual savory-sweetness to the drink.

Meanwhile, others aim to minimize dilution. San Francisco bartender Tim Stookey freezes chunks of pisco punch to float in the drink at the Presidio Social Club. Taking this a step further, French Culinary Institute culinary scientist Dave Arnold plans to avoid the "corruption of ice" when he eventually opens "the ultimate high-tech cocktail bar" by employing superchilled cocktail stirrers to create extremely cold drinks.

And then there's the flamboyance of liquid nitrogen. In South Beach, Miami, Barton G uses rum popsicles to stir its variation on the mojito (though what a crime to do this to 21-year-old Ron Zacapa rum!), and offers up nitrogenized martinis with frozen vermouth swizzle sticks and frozen pearls of olive juice. As the "liquid ice" melts, a dramatic fog-machine effect envelops the cocktail.  

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