On the rocks, the bartender’s guide to sea ice

I’ve just moved from Alaska to Seattle, driving over 4000 miles and what felt like almost every major highway in Alaska in a last ditch effort to see all the sights I hadn’t seen while living there. And these sights included glaciers. Glaciers in water, glaciers on land, hanging glaciers, glaciers in cirques. Lots and lots of glaciers. Of course, being an oceanographer one of my favorite was Surprise Glacier, an active tidewater glacier that flows into Prince William Sound. While I didn’t see any giant icebergs calving from the face, it was still pretty awesome to hear the groans, crashes and splashes of small chunks of ice falling into the water.

And since I was on a touristy cruise, of course I had to do the touristy thing which was to drink a touristy Margarita chilled with touristy glacial ice freshly scooped from the touristy sea. It wasn’t the best Margarita I’ve ever had, but it was pretty damn good. Maybe it was crystal clear glacial ice? Maybe it was the cool katabatic winds flowing off the glacier? Maybe it was because I had been on boat fo 4 hours without a drink? But it got me thinking, if glacial ice could make such an excellent cocktail, then what other drinks could be enhanced by ice found in the sea? One could argue that almost any drink could be improved by the addition of sea ice. But we are not mixology heathens here. You must take into account the color, clarity and even texture of the ice to make the perfect drink. With those qualifications in mind, I bring you a list of 4 cocktails that are best served with a healthy dose of ice harvested directly from the sea.

Frozen Daiquiri

Skip the blender and head to the Arctic in October to scoop yourself up some frazil ice. Having just been formed by surface cooling, these newly formed ice crystals look like slush in water, making them the perfect consistency for daiquiris. And through the process of brine rejection, where salt is pushed out of seawater as it freezes, frazil ice is almost completely fresh so it won’t spoil the sweetness of your icy libation. But how do I find myself some frazil ice for my tropical cocktail? Luckily, you can locate patches of newborn ice from space, being stirred into lovely swirls by ocean eddies. All you need to do now is hop on your boat and head to one of the poles!

Satellites and Science, helping you find all the frazil ice you need for your Daiquiri
1 1/2 oz light rum
1 tbsp triple sec
1 1/2 oz lime juice
1 tsp sugar
1 cup frazil ice

Combine all ingredients in hurricane glass. Stir with a swizzle stick to create mixing eddies. Top with cherry and a tiny umbrella.

Frozen Margarita 

Use actual slush, which is new ice or snow that has become saturated with sea water. Comes pre-salted so you don’t have to deal with coating the glass rim.

1 lime wedge
3 oz white tequila
1 oz triple sec
2 oz lime juice
1 cup slush

Pour tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and slush into a pint glass. Shake what your mama gave ya. Garnish with lime wedge on rim.

Arctic Summer

The only authentic way to drink this cocktail is to be north of the Arctic Circle during the months of June, July or August. Most likely, your only local option will be multi-year ice, ice that is strong and thick enough to not completely melt during the Arctic summer. And I would say in terms of taste, multiyear ice will have the most “flavor” of all the ice you can find in the sea. What I mean by flavor is the algae, crustaceans, phytoplankton, and even flatworms that live in brine channels that have formed in this ice. This ice won’t just chill your drink, it will add an entire ecosystem to it!

Diatoms in multiyear ice, helping you drink and eat your vegetables.

0.75 ounce apricot brandy
1.50 ounces gin
1 teaspoon grenadine
4 ounces bitter lemon soda

Leap from the ice breaker with an ice axe between your teeth. Once on ice, hack off enough to fill a highball glass. Add in all other ingredients. Skewer a cherry and lemon slice with axe. Place in drink. Stir.

Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned is considered to be one of the oldest cocktails in the United States and must be served with an appropriately aged ice to go along with it. With ages ranging from several hundred to several thousand years, glacial ice is the only way to make an Old Fashioned really Old Fashioned. Glaciers are formed by the slow compression of snow into ice that eventually becomes so heavy it flows downhill. The intense pressures that create ice also squeeze out any air bubbles and even alter ice’s crystal structure. The result is an incredibly clear ice that adds a stunning touch to your drink. But buyer beware, these intense pressures can also trap dirt and grit in glacial ice which lead some undesirable grit at the bottom of your glass. Therefore the glacial Old Fashioned is not a drink for the slow sipping tippler, but for the hardened imbiber who can outrace an ice thaw.

2 maraschino cherries
2 slices of orange
1 teaspoon sugar or 1 small sugar cube
1 or 2 dashes of angostura bitters
1 teaspoon water
2 ounces rye or bourbon whiskey

Steer vessel to the terminus of a tide water glacier. Yodel to dislodge ice. Collect ice with net, then smash with hammer. Muddle 1 cherry, 1 orange slice, and the sugar, bitters, and water in a chilled Old Fashioned glass. Remove the orange rind. Add the whiskey and glacial ice; stir. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and an orange slice.
And by the way, here is a pic of that glacial margarita that inspired this entire post.
Chilled by the snow of a thousand winters, this Margarita is awesome.
Chilled by the snow of a thousand winters, this Margarita was historic. Photo taken by @anainvancouver who had one too!

2 Replies to “On the rocks, the bartender’s guide to sea ice”

  1. In SE AK, we used to collect glacier ice for onboard drinks, but the jury was hung on whether the popularity of the same ice for seal haul-outs would introduce unwanted side effects to our drinks… Can vodka kill fecal additives?

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