Rebecca Monday, bar manager at Harvest Pizzeria in Dublin, shares her secrets.
Ice is one of those essential ingredients that's easy to overlook. We take for granted the cubes shuffling around in our cup of soda or clinking against the side of a highball glass. But many bartenders have been upping their ice game, using it as a vehicle of expression when concocting both classic and modern cocktails.
Rebecca Monday, bar manager and assistant general manager at Harvest Pizzeria's third outpost in Dublin, brings five years of experience working under Curio owner and bartender Travis Owens. Amongst the myriad techniques she's learned is how to craft perfect, crystal-clear ice for cocktails.
Like many bartenders creating clear ice cubes, Monday uses a process called directional freezing, in which a series of insulated trays are filled with non-chilled, filtered water, then slowly frozen in insulated tubs. The process takes nearly 24 hours, and the water is frozen from top to bottom, Monday says, so all the impurities—cracks and bubbles in the ice—sit at the bottom of the cube.
“You don't want to freeze it all of the way,” Monday explains, “so we pull the cubes out before they're completely frozen.” That way she can easily trim the impurities off the bottom, and the result is a translucent cube—one that floats beautifully in an Old-Fashioned or a Negroni on the rocks. Practically speaking, these larger ice cubes don't melt as quickly, which better maintains the integrity of the cocktail.
Harvest also employs a Japanese Hoshizaki ice maker. “It offers us filtered cubes for shaking cocktails, stirring cocktails, for a vodka soda, anything along those lines,” Monday says. “It has a non-chilled, filtered system in the machine and does directional freezing internally to produce heavy-duty cubes.”
Ultimately, the proper ice adds a bit of showmanship to the cocktail, but it doesn't affect the flavor. “It doesn't make the drink taste any different,” Monday says, “but it's sexy, it's appealing. It's all about the perception—if I have a gorgeous cocktail, versus something that's sloppy and over-diluted.”
The process of crafting clear ice cubes is surprisingly labor intensive—Monday jokes that she and her daytime bartender are the “ice managers”—but the work has paid off. Her customers at Harvest have caught onto the value of properly made ice. “I have two people who ask for their ice to-go to the next bar,” she laughs.
Recrafting the Cosmo
For a refreshing cocktail, Monday recommends the Bold & Boujie, her craft version of a cosmopolitan. She was inspired by customers ordering cosmos at Harvest in Dublin. “I haven't made cosmos in 15 years behind the bar, especially at Curio,” she says. Her nod to the cosmo is made with Watershed vodka, a house-made cranberry syrup, orange blossom water, Cocchi Americano (an aperitif wine) and fresh lemon juice.