Six o’clock and ‘Ivan the Iceman’ is ready for business


Pentair Moment: Six o’clock and ‘Ivan the Iceman’ is ready for business

Why a fresh, clean and plentiful supply of ice is a cocktail for success

“Happy hour is here again. It is crazy from about 18.00 but it never really stops all evening. Gin and vodka-based cocktails may be the movers and shakers, but ice is my essential ingredient. Regular cubes for the buckets, crushed for the shakers and crescent shaped for the glasses as they fit better. I must use kilos of it every night – couldn’t do the job without it.”
Ivan Nowak, Mixologist

It chills the drink, dilutes the alcohol, adds texture to the mix and looks great. Ice is the essential ingredient for so many cocktails but one we take for granted. But frozen water is just the tip of the iceberg. Mixologist Ivan gives his perspective on quantity, quality and hygiene of ice in drinks.

We may occasionally run out of an exclusive brand spirit or a fancy mixer, but we never run out of ice. If we did it would literally ‘freeze’ our business.  We are fortunate to have some heavy-duty ice machines here but then they are in use 24/7. They are all piped with high-quality, filtered water and produce ice of different shapes and sizes. Making cocktails at home is a different proposition – but the principals are the same. Here are my top tips on ice for the cocktail connoisseur.

glasses with fruits and ice

Don’t hold back on the ice

It sounds obvious but the more ice you add, the better.

Some people worry that too much ice in the glass will water down the cocktail, but that argument doesn’t really hold much water. True if you leave the drink standing for too long, but on balance a full glass of ice is best. Firstly more ice makes the drink colder, quicker. And, in a colder drink, the ice will melt slower. If you have just a few ice cubes in a tumbler of ambient liquid, they will melt before the drink is finished. You should always have plenty of ice left in the glass when you have finished your tipple. If you are left with a watery slush, you didn’t use enough ice – or you need to drink up quicker!


Size is important

The larger the cube, the slower it will melt. That is important in short drinks or those served neat like whisky or brandy. Conversely many cocktails, such as juleps or cobblers, are best served over crushed ice since it adds texture and body to the drink. Crushed ice melts much more quickly so I always make sure the ingredients are pre-chilled, even having the glass in the freezer too.  For general use I prefer to use crescent or thimble-shaped ice as I can always fit more in the glass. 

glass of water with lemon and ice

The better water, the better the ice

I cannot stress enough the importance of water quality used for making your ice. Up to a quarter of a cocktail can be water from the melted ice and you only want to mix with the best. Any odours or off-tastes in the water will simply end up in the drink. Dissolved solids and scale will suspend in the ice and there is nothing attractive about cloudy ice cubes. So, unless you can be 100% sure about the quality of your tap, I would recommend using bottled, or even better, carbon filtered water. My home fridge has a basic carbon filter, whereas at work we use professional carbon-based cartridge filters with scale inhibitor and bacteriostatic control.

Keep it clean 

I never handle ice with my hands or put unused ice back in the ice bin – that’s how bacteria spreads. Even worse is to scoop ice with a glass as there is the risk of a splinter breaking off and making its way into someone’s drink. Always best to use a dedicated scoop.  We have all heard stories about contaminated ice machines causing norovirus outbreaks and worse. Ice machines can be a notorious breeding ground for mould and mildew which can build up as a slime on the surfaces, so hygiene is really important. Daily we empty and clean our ice machines with a proprietary cleaner although that means disruptive downtime when we are busy.  I am looking forward to the arrival of our new automated ozone disinfection machines that will save on cleaning and make the ice machines a healthier place.

So next time you’re drinking ‘on the rocks’, spare a thought for what goes into making your ice. Or if you’re fixing a drink at home for friends, keep your cool with a plentiful supply of fresh, clear and clean ice. Cheers!

If you have a moment…


Take a look at the new Pentair Oxidice disinfection system. Designed especially for professional ice machines, Oxidice uses a unique disinfection process to reduce contaminants and odours, ensuring a constant supply of high-quality ice for your business.

Oxidice generates ozone which is an oxidizing agent that can be stronger and more effective than other disinfectants. Unlike stripping down and cleaning the ice machine, Oxidice is always online generating ozone.

It is the only such system to use both aqueous and gaseous oxidation simultaneously, treating both the water and the ice basin, making it the most effective on the market. 
Oxidice is easy to install and adapts to virtually any size ice machine.

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