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Housemade bitters and infused liquors aren’t the only hand-crafted ingredients going into cocktails. Now, even ice can be artisanal.
Joseph Ambrose, a bartender at at P.O.V Lounge at the W Hotel, recently started a boutique ice company called Favourite Ice that’s providing local restaurants with ice blocks, spheres, and cubes hand-cut to specification. Range beverage director Owen Thomson is also a partner, though he’s not involved in the day-to-day operations.
“If you’re going to spend $10 to $15 for a cocktail and it’s on the rocks, you should have the best ice you possibly can,” Ambrose says.
Ambrose got interested in ice and its importance in cocktails after training with Sasha Petraske of New York’s Milk & Honey, who started an ice program at the W Hotel in 2009.
At Favourite Ice, which operates out of a facility in Bethesda, Ambrose uses a Clinebell machine to produce 300 pound blocks of ice made with filtered water. Unlike the ice from your freezer and a lot of restaurants, Ambrose’s ice is completely clear all the way through. He then uses a saw to break down the blocks into small and smaller cubes, until they’re a size that will fit in your glass. Ambrose uses a Japanese Taisin ice mold to create spherical ice, which melts slower and keeps your drink cold longer.
So far, Favourite Ice’s clients include Range, Jaleo, Estadio, and Proof. Hank’s on the Hill also orders six 25 pound blocks a week, which it carves at the bar. “A lot of places are just discovering the ice programs,” Ambrose says.
In addition to the ice, Ambrose and Thomson started a bitters company last year called Pork Barrel Bitters. Right now, they produce “Hellfire” and pineapple bitters. Aromatic and chocolate are coming soon. P.O.V Lounge, Bandolero, Range, and Boundary Stone all use the products. You can also order some by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.