High-end ice in a high-end Old Fashioned

Artsy ice in a high-end Old Fashioned (Courtesy of ROOH)

My cocktail of choice is an Old Fashioned, no matter the mixology iteration. This classic but relatively simple concoction, whether made with bourbon or rye, orange, chocolate, or coffee bitters, and whatever sweetness source, never fails to warm my soul with every sip. And it never fails to amuse me when a server assumes to place the amber liquid in front of my husband while handing me Dan’s pink, fruit-filled choice. But that’s another story. But it’s the sight of improper Old Fashioned that ice chills me to the bone.

Discerning imbibers know that aesthetics are essential to the cocktail experience, especially die-hard Old Fashioned aficionados. They know the ideal chill derives from one large cube that melts more slowly than standard ice cubes. More importantly, it reduces cocktail dilution. Plus, a large cube simply looks cool, and the bigger, the better. I cringe when my “usual” arrives over the clinking of a multitude of small, standard freezer cubes that thaw almost immediately, weakening my aperitif. And if the bartender adds a Maraschino cherry or a spritz of soda water? Yikes- don’t get me started.

I always know I’m in good mixologist hands when my cocktail includes ice that’s a large sphere, a large square, or a crystal-clear, hand-cut chunk resembling a small iceberg. I reserve extra enthusiasm for artistic flairs, such as the “OJ” emblazoned atop the cube within the Winter Old Fashioned (rye, maple syrup, orange, and chocolate bitters) served at Original Joe’s in San Francisco’s North Beach or the ROOH Palo Alto logo imprinted upon the saffron-thread-infused cube within the haute Indian restaurant’s Ghee Kesar Old Fashioned (bourbon, ghee, saffron, and jaggery.) I nearly broke out in applause when Meadowood Napa Valley’s Forum Restaurant presented an Old Fashioned containing a large bitters, Luxardo cherry, and sugar-infused cube. In addition to the upscaled appearance, it perfectly flavored each swig as it slowly melted, releasing the tart cerise from its icy grip just in time for my last sip.

Am I an Old Fashioned snob? Perhaps. But my assessment of nearly every version I’ve had undoubtedly confirms that I’m an ice snob. I’m sure there’s a Reddit subgroup for my ilk. If not, I may just start the thread myself!