Fancy ice cream takes off in Sydney bars and homes
Ten years ago, bartenders started showcasing new Australian craft spirits brands to show they took cocktails seriously. Five years later, it has become vital to use the best new mixers and tonics. Now it’s all about fancy ice cream.
“Ice cream is the final frontier in making premium cocktails,” says former bartender Damien Liot, founder of the Alexandria-based company. Bare Bones Ice Co in 2017.
“We’ve never had such demand for our bespoke products. At the moment we’re just trying to keep up with the increase in orders since hospitality resumed after the lockdown.”
Liot ice cream is a far cry from the cloudy cubes of tap water found in most home freezers. Bare Bones ice is made using a process called directional freezing, where water freezes very slowly in one direction.
It takes four days to properly freeze a 150-kilogram block, and even longer in Sydney’s summer heat
“Freezing water from the bottom up pushes all the impurities, minerals and air bubbles upwards,” says Liot. “We then remove the top of the ice after freezing is complete and what’s left on the bottom is crystal clear.”
James Irvine is the Creative Director of Beverages at the Four Pillars Gin Laboratory in Surry Hills. He says the benefits of fancy ice cream go beyond its cosmetic value.
“Sounds awesome, absolutely, but Bare Bones Ice will also dilute a drink much slower than a regular cube, which means better flavor concentration and better alcohol balance in the glass.”
Liot produces over a ton of ice cream a week, about 80% of which is cut into crisp blocks ready for Old Fashioneds, negronis, and a myriad of house cocktails.
A list of over 100 Bare Bones customers includes Bondi’s Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, CBD mezcal bar Cantina OK !, and Neil Perry’s Margaret restaurant in Double Bay.
However, a whimsical ice cream war is starting to brew in Sydney with the launch of Blox Premium Cocktail Ice in June.
Offering crystal clear ice similar to Bare Bones, Blox sells to more than 20 bars, including Maybe Sammy and Hickson House (both at The Rocks), but company founder Andy Harris says house cocktail makers are its main objective.
“We love what Bare Bones do, but the premium ice cream market is growing strongly, so we launched Blox to meet that demand,” says Harris, also a former bartender.
“The business was born after the first COVID lockdown when home cocktails really took off. People now want to make amazing drinks at home with the same type of ice that their favorite bars use.”
Harris installed a branded slim freezer at Maybe Sammy to sell their six packs of slow melt ice packs, also available to order online from the Blox website at $ 10 a box.
“Some people have remarked ‘oh, that’s quite expensive’, but it takes a lot of time, concentration and specialized equipment to cut the ice by hand,” he says. “We’re not just throwing cubes in a Bells bag.”
Meanwhile, Liot is also strengthening Bare Bones’ presence in retail.
$ 14 “Old Fashioned Block” packs of eight are available at Dan Murphy’s Alexandria store, P&V Wine + Liquor Merchants in Newtown, Old Mate’s Place in the CBD, and Four Pillars Gin Laboratory.
Bare Bones is also expanding to meet demand in 2022 with a new factory, upgraded equipment and more refrigerated vans for delivery. “This will be the summer when Bare Bones really comes into its own,” Liot said.
Make crystal clear ice cream at home
Cloudy cubes spoiling an otherwise perfect homemade cocktail? If factory-made ice isn’t easily accessible, James Irvine says it’s possible to make clear ice in a home freezer – all you need is a little Esky.
“Directional freezing sounds a lot more scientific and complicated than it actually is,” says Irvine. “Just get a one or two liter lunch box of Esky – or just a Kmart branded model will do – fill it three quarters full with water and place it in the freezer without the lid on. . What will happen is that the water does not freeze completely – there will be ice, with a layer of water on top. “
Ice freezes in a crystalline way because the Esky case contains glycol gel, he says. “The glycol allows the water to circulate quickly, which means none of the impurities will turn into ice. You can then use a bread knife to carefully cut the block into different shapes.”