Exceptional bartenders and mixologists consider many factors when producing cocktails, including balanced flavors and presentation. However, until recently, one aspect was an afterthought: ice. “Drink Smith” Michel Dozois is working to convert bartenders, consumers and media members to his premium Névé Ice. As part of his push, he invited Heaven’s Dog bartender Jon Santer to Church & State to lead a convincing workshop about ice’s impact.
Santer never considered ice’s importance during his first twelve years behind the bar, saying, “That’s why the guys in New York were kicking our ass until recently.” Now he and other notable West Coast barmen are paying attention,
Each table seated four people and featured a DIY cocktail kit, including a Boston shaker, Hawthorn strainer, mixing glass and jigger. We also received cassis, fresh squeezed lime juice, simple syrup and bottles of 42BELOW vodka, Cazadores reposado tequila and Bacardi 8 rum.
Santer started the workshop by saying, “We’re talking about ice, but we’re really talking about flavor. Cocktails share only one ingredient – water. How much and how cold affects flavor.”
We partnered up with a tablemate and made each drink twice, once with everyday ice and once with Névé. Santer told us to focus on the concentration of flavor, temperature and dilution. He said that shaking adds ice chips, air bubbles and cloudiness to cocktails.
Our vodka Martini featured 2 oz. of 42BELOW vodka. That’s it. The martini made with regular ice was cloudier and more diluted. At this point, the point was pretty much proven, but bartenders, bloggers and journalists aren’t known to stop at one drink, and nobody complained about making two more.
“With cocktails, the first hit is always the best hit,” said Santer. “After that, it’s a downhill slide.” Still, there are ways to limit the downhill grade. Use a smaller glass and larger ice cube to limit surface area and dilution while dropping the temperature.
Our second cocktail, The Diablo, combined 2 oz. Cazadores reposado tequila with 1 oz. lime juice and cassis. It was supposed to be a spoonful, but it was hard to hear Santer, so I accidentally poured in the full vial of cassis. 6 shakes and a light pour of ginger beer was supposed to lead to a well-balanced pink cocktail. In my hands, it led to a syrupy sweet purple drink.
We were low on lime juice, so Santer called an audible and asked us to make a Daiquiri – 2 oz. Bacardi 8, 1 oz. lime juice and ¾ oz. simple syrup. It’s a simple citrus-y option that worked out better the the Diablo.
The difference was apparent after the first drink, but Santer made his point one final time, saying, “Assuming we have the same skill set and tools and I’m using Névé ice, my drink is going to kick your drink’s ass every time.”
Névé Ice is currently available by the bag at Wally’s and Bar Keeper in Silver Lake, plus in cocktails at Rivera, Cole’s, The Doheny, AK Restaurant and The London Hotel.
Walter Manzke wasn’t in the house since Church & State is closed on Mondays, but he did leave some presents for guests, including three jars: Rillettes de Porc with Berkshire pork and prune confiture; Caviar d’Aubergine with roasted eggplant and olive tapenade; and La Cachat – Provencal goat’s cheese sealed with lavender honey. The kitchen also provided wood planks lined with seared steak, a big basket of crisp frites, a mountain of puffy gougeres and an almond apricot tart.