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Cooling Down With Custom-Cut Ice

Innovative ice makes a splash local cocktails

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The concept seems simple enough: Big, glacier-like hunks of ice melt slower in sippable drinks than smaller, machine--made cubes. Bartenders across the country have embraced custom-cut ice as a way to cool their creations without watering them down.

"We put large ice in cocktails where we want the cocktail to stay cold but dilute slowly," says Modern Hotel bartender Michael Bowers.

The Modern takes special pains to ensure its custom-made ice cubes are clear and bubble-free.

"What we do is we freeze in hotel pans ... and then cut the ice with a hammer and chisel," says Bowers. "If you freeze in a mold, all of the suspended air doesn't freeze ... that's what makes ice cubes cloudy."

Though the process is a bit arduous, Bowers explains that large, cut-to-order ice is a tradition that stretches back to the beginning of cocktail culture.

"It started in the 19th century. Before ice machines, ice came from lakes and rivers and was cut off in enormous chunks and transported in enormous chunks, and cut by bartenders to order for each drink," explains Bowers.

Red Feather has also embraced custom-made ice as an innovative way to present its drinks.

"We've gone from spherical ice to column ice to nice, perfectly 1-inch-cubed ice," says bartender Mark Allen. "They're all for different purposes."

For some boozy, big ice action, check out the Modern's Devil Heart or Red Feather's Averee.