What's cooler than cool?

A new ice age at Brasserie 19: Melt-proof ice balls trigger a cocktail revolution, pushing aside the cubes

A new ice age at Brasserie 19: Melt-proof ice balls trigger a cocktail revolution, pushing aside the cubes

News_Brasserie 19_ice balls
Ice balls come in perfect spheres, ideal for cooling a cocktail. Photo by Debora Smail/Reality Photography
News_Brasserie 19_ice balls
Brasserie 19 has embraced the ice balls. Photo by Debora Smail/Reality Photography
News_Brasserie 19_ice balls
Photo by Debora Smail/Reality Photography
News_Brasserie 19_ice balls
News_Brasserie 19_ice balls
News_Brasserie 19_ice balls

When it comes to proper drinks, the ice is the thing. (Just ask Bobby Heugel.) So how does one get drinks perfectly chilled without watering them down?

Brasserie 19 managing partner Shawn Virene came up with a novel solution. Inspired by bars in New York and Japan, he invested in a $1,000 Macallan machine that looks a little like a fancy hotel ice bucket and turns any block of ice into a sphere perfectly sized for a rocks glass.

With less surface area and greater density, the ice ball cools any beverage quickly — whether it's an aged scotch, mixed drink, or aperitif — without offsetting the balance between ingredients or watering down the flavor.

The ice balls have become a phenomenon at Brasserie 19, where the bar goes through over a hundred every night. "People order a drink and say 'Don't forget to put that special ice in there,' " Virene says.

In the middle of the afternoon lull, bartenders stock up making the ice balls. They start with a hot water rinse for the Macallen ice press, then insert a block and wait while the lid slowly pushes down on the ice, melting it and sucking out the excess water — open, and viola, a near-perfect sphere. The balls are stored in their own cooler for use throughout the night.

I tried one of the signature balls in a Bee's Knees cocktail, with gin, lemon juice and honey simple syrup. The result was cool and tasty, and though I sipped slowly, I never got that bottom-of-the-glass gulp. But for me the fun of the ball is the visual and tactile cues — it's just fun to play with.

Brasserie 19 is the only bar program in town sending out drinks with ice that's decidedly non-cube like. Have you tried the ice balls? Do you think it makes a difference?