There is this idea in the cocktail world, especially in major metropolitan areas, that your ice program says everything about your bar. If you take your ice seriously, you must take your bar seriously. If you don’t take your ice seriously, you must not serve very good cocktails. Many bar programs go to extreme lengths, often spending thousands of dollars, to ensure that each drink is served with the appropriate style of ice, each cube perfectly clear.

Meanwhile, there’s a growing thirst for drinks with pebble ice among younger drinkers and a belief — no matter how false — that larger ice cubes are placed in cocktails to disguise the true amount of liquor present. Noticing a lack of consumer demand for extremely high-quality ice cubes — not to mention the labor and costs involved with producing said cubes — many bars have pulled back, perhaps serving ice with a few clouds here and there.

There certainly is a benefit for bars with extensive ice programs. In order to be considered for lists like “50 Best Bars,” cocktail bars need to meet a certain criteria of excellence, similarly to how Michelin weighs specific benchmarks restaurants must meet in order to be awarded a star. For these cocktail bars, a solid ice program is one of those benchmarks. However, if a bar is not gunning to make one of these lists, is there really any consumer demand, any true purpose for these programs beyond flexing to others in your community?

On this episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” Adam, Joanna, and Zach debate whether or not cocktail bars should be so enamored with fancy ice programs. Do they truly enhance the drinks and the guests’ experience, or do they add unnecessary costs and come across as more snobby than sophisticated? Tune in for more.

Zach is reading: Fortified Wines Are ‘Cool’ Again — So Why Are Their Regions in Crisis?
Joanna is reading: The Cocktail College Podcast: The (Re)Martini
Adam is reading: How to Tip at Casinos, According to a Vegas Bartender

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