We all get by with a little help from our friends. Behind every phenomenal sports person there’s a host of coaches and physios; every celebrated chief exec relies on lesser-celebrated staff to succeed; and every famous bartender needs a team of bar-backs to prep the garnishes, load dishwashers and dry the glasses. Exceptional talent can’t be realised without support.
This hidden help is easily overlooked. Just consider your average cocktail. The big-name spirits take centre stage, but toiling in the background is an ingredient that’s so ubiquitous it is taken for granted. I’m talking about ice, baby.
Ice does two things to a cocktail. Most obviously it makes whatever you’re drinking cold, but it also dilutes the drink. And this is where it can get complicated because not all ice melts in the same way or at the same speed.
If you don’t want to dilute a cocktail too much – for example, if you’re making a Mojito – you should pack a shaker with ice to overflowing and shake your rum, mint and sugar hard and fast. Whereas if you’re making a Mint Julep, you should slowly stir your bourbon mint and sugar over crushed ice, diluting the drink to perfection. The world’s best bars are getting serious about ice: The Aviary in Chicago trains and employs dedicated ice chefs, uses a reverse osmosis filtration system for the water, and produces ice in dozens of different shapes, densities and flavours.
Closer to home, Chivas Regal 18 has just gifted an ice press to five of London’s best bars. Designed by Pininfarina of Ferrari fame, the machine presses a lump of ice into an elegant ice drop. The drop is designed for cocktails in which you don’t want much dilution, such as short whisky cocktails.
Over recent years, you may have noticed that your Old Fashioned is hosting a huge lump of ice with the bourbon or whisky. This isn’t because the bar is trying to scrimp on alcohol – it’s because it will cool your drink quickly without too much surface area of the liquid exposed to ice. With the Old Fashioned you want a little water to open up the spirit but not so much that it dampens the flavours.
The Velvet Old Fashioned, which has been created by Chivas’ global brand ambassador Max Warner will be served at The Artesian, Nightjar, The American Bar, The Connaught Bar and Happiness Forgets. It’s what Coco the monkey (of Coco Pops fame) would be drinking in middle age, with the Pedro Ximenez accentuating the chocolaty notes of the Chivas 18. Get them while they’re cold.
VELVET OLD FASHIONED
- 50ml Chivas 18
- 10ml Pedro Ximenez sherry
- Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass, stir and pour over the ice drop
- Garnish with orange zest