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Michael Madrusan: All you wanted to know about ice, but were afraid to ask

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Michael Madrusan is the founder of The Elk Room and The Everleigh, repeatedly named “Bar of the Year” and placed on Drinks Internationals’ list of the World’s 50 Best Bars.

Michael spent many years in London and New York, working in the most reputable bars in the world, including Milk & Honey, Little Branch and PDT, and then returned to Australia. Recently, Michael founded Navy Strength Ice Co. in Melbourne, specializing in the production of the highest quality, hand-cut ice.


What is ice?

Water has three physical states, and ice is one of them. Consequently, the chemical composition of ice is H2O. The study of ice and its properties is its own separate science – glaciology (from Latin: glacies,“ice” and Ancient Greek: λογος, “study”).


Why do we need ice?

Ice is one of the most important ingredients both in cocktails and elsewhere. Even mineral water improves in taste with the addition of ice, and the process of drinking becomes more aesthetically pleasing.

For some reason, ice is too frequently glossed over. It's important to remember: if you're planning on putting effort into making a drink and you strive to choose only the best ingredients, then you need to start with good ice.

Ice is the only ingredient of the cocktail which has one, even two specific tasks: such as cooling and diluting a drink.


What are the different types of ice?

There are many types of ice. I’ll tell you which ones I use.

I prefer cube ice which is split off from large, crystal-clear ice blocks. It is ideal for drinks “On the Rocks”. We also use cube ice at The Everleigh to make citrus beverages, in order to control the whole process.

Crushed ice means small ice chips or pebbles. This type of ice is used to make refreshing summer cocktails. Such ice melts quickly due to its small surface area. Therefore, it’s best to chill glassware before serving in order to keep the drink cold for longer. We use long spears for cocktails in tall glasses: for example, a Tom Collins or Gin Tonic.


How do you calculate the right amount of ice?

The calculation has to be based on an average of how many drinks will be served during working hours, multiplied by the approximate amount used to make a drink. However, you need to make or buy extra ice, because you always need to have it in stock.


What do you do if the ice runs out?

Don't panic. Wait until the ice machine prepares the right amount of ice. In the meantime, you can invite guests to try your house bitters – the recipes for which are kept in strict confidence by your grandmother – while they wait.

However, I’m afraid that a bar just can’t work without ice. If we really got into trouble and ran out of ice at the bar, it would be a disaster. I think we would cook up a Hot Toddy for our guests.


How do you insure yourself?

An emergency phone number for express ice delivery should always be posted behind the bar. Alternatively, you could have the phone number of a nearby bar where you can borrow ice. In addition, chilled glassware and grandmother’s super-exclusive bitters should also be provided.


Expert: Michael Madrusan
Journalist: Ketrin Ki
Photo: Korea Kilichli

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