Friday, January 23, 2009

Cooling and Chilling Just Like a Snowman

I first saw the super-geeky Japanese Ice Presses in London, at Nick Strangeway's restaurant Hawksmoor. He has been sent, gratis, one of the expensive contraptions, which turn a block of ice into a perfect sphere. These huge round ice "cubes" look mighty impressive as the single cooling agent in a rocks glass. All and sundry gathered around to watch the thing, agog.

I next saw the golden magic machine a couple weeks ago at PDT, James Meehan's place in the East Village. James was introduced to the spheres by Johnny Iuzzini, who also came up with the drink, the East Village Globe Trotter, that will first feature the special ice. He has ordered a few presses and plans to wow the Gotham cocktail populace with by plopping the icy orbs into cocktails. I suspect he will wow them. I wrote a quick item about the phenom for Time Out New York's drink blog. Here is is:

Anyone who knows cocktail wonks knows they are obsessed with ice. The frozen water found in mixed drinks must be the right size and the right shape. It must be fresh and carry no odors. You must not skimp on the crushed ice in a Derby and the numerous tiny chunks in a proper Cobbler must be the approximate size of a ball bearing.

Well, sheriff, there’s a new ice cube in town. It’s big, it’s round, and you only need one.

In the next couple weeks, Jim Meehan of the East Village neo-speakeasy, PDT will introduce the latest in cocktail coolers: a perfectly spherical piece of ice about the size of a decent snowball. They are made with a costly Japanese ice press. Just place a large chunk of ice between two gold metal cylinders, each with a half-sphere cavity in the center. As the ice melts, the press closes in on itself, creating the ball of ice inside. The process is slow, taking a couple of minutes to produce each globe.

Meehan plans to showcase the ice in a new drink, fittingly called the East Village Globe Trotter. The drink, made of rye, cognac, sweet vermouth and Benedictine, is a riff on a famous New Orleans nip called a Vieux Carre. He expects the ice ball to catch eyes and catch on. Or, in other words, what comes round, goes around.—Robert Simonson

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