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Artisanal ice is a thing, and it doesn't come cheap

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Cocktails are expensive. This is known, and we accept it. Want to know what is more expensive? A cocktail with "artisanal ice."

If you're confused, you aren't the only one. As the Washington City Paper reports, it's what a Pennsylvania bar called Second State will be doing when it adds a $1 ice surcharge to many of the already-expensive drinks on its cocktail menu. The ice is being provided by Favourite Ice, an artisanal ice company that hand-chisels the ice for about 30 restaurants and caterers in the Washington D.C. area. 

So what exactly is artisanal ice? Is there something wrong with regular ice? Not really, reports NPR

"Turns out the rise of artisanal ice probably has more to do with bars trying to justify their high-priced cocktails with one extra perk: ice like you've never seen it before," NPR reporter Eliza Barclay writes.

There are a few differences between fancy icy and ice straight out of the freezer tray, however. Favourite Ice co-founder Joe Ambrose says the company's artisanal ice isn't cloudy like plain ice, because all the water used to make the ice is filtered and then run through a Clinebell machine, the same kind of machines used to make blocks for ice sculptures. That, supposedly, cuts down on the "minerally" taste of plain ice. Ambrose then cuts the filtered ice into large blocks and goes from there. In the case of Second State, the ice cubes are made into a rough, spherical shape as opposed to the classic cube. Due to their large size, artisanal ice cubes melt much more slowly than several small ice cubes, and thus prevent drinks from becoming watered down.

Ambrose and his partner Owen Thompson both have full time jobs in addition to working at Favourite Ice, but it seems to be paying off. 

"It's lucrative, but we're not getting rich off it," says Ambrose.

That's all well and great. Artisanal ice doesn't melt as fast, it's less cloudy, Ambrose is making bank off it, blah blah blah. But is it really worth an extra $1 for an already expensive drink? Second State seems to think so. Hauling all the speciality ice, even with the extra ice charge, is a money loser for the bar. At least that's something. 

Photo: Kyle May via Flickr  

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