John Gertsen Knows the Perfect Ice for Any Drink
by Naomi Kooker
FROM LEFT: John Gertsen; Moscow Mule
Armed with an ice pick, John Gertsen, general manager and mix master at Drink in Fort Port Channel, obsesses over matching ice with cocktail. He speaks of melt rates. Fifty-pound ice blocks hunker behind Drink’s bar. All night long, bartenders chip, crack, shave and crush away. Gertsen is so confident about his cubes he makes a promise: “Your whiskey on the rocks is going to be more fancy than any drink I can make.”
Are there any rules for matching ice with drinks?
Kold-Draft cubes for Tom Collins; hand-hewn for rye whiskey on the rocks; crushed ice for an old-school mist; hand-cracked for margaritas; shaved for mint juleps.
What’s in your toolbox?
A bar spoon, cocktail shaker, ice pick, my hands, my eyes, my ears and my brain. We use disposable straws, dip them in, get a microliter of whatever we’re mixing and just put it on our tongues.
The secret to perfect cubes at home?
Smell them. Most people have freezers full of food, and the ice may take on those food flavors. If you want to get really nerdy, you can take filtered or boiled water and pour it into a Tovolo tray; it’s the best ice-cube tray on the market. It’s silicone.
When did you fall in love with ice?
In 2003, when I discovered Kold-Draft, a machine that makes perfect cubes, one and a quarter inches on each side. A jet of water circulates in the cube, and as it circulates it freezes. The cubes are stackable, and you can throw them at guests if they try to run off with the check.
John Gertsen's Moscow Mule
Use crushed ice for making this tart and refreshing adult snow cone.
½ lime, cut into 8 pieces
1½ oz. Smirnoff vodka
Place the lime pieces into a copper mug and press firmly to release the oils from the skin and the juice from the lime. Add the vodka, pack with crushed ice, top off with ginger beer, give a good stir and go sit
With a triple-distillation process, Jameson Irish whiskey offers an edge and intense flavor that other whiskeys don’t. Matched with Baileys Irish Cream, it makes for a well-tempered cocktail, even if the name suggests otherwise.
2 oz. Baileys Irish Cream
2 oz. Jameson Irish whiskey
3 ice cubes
Pour Baileys and Jameson over three cubes of ice and stir.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ERIC LEVIN