FOOD & DRINK
10/15/2014 10:55 am ET

Bar Charges Extra For Clear Ice, Cocktail Culture Hits New Low

Antonio Muñoz palomares via Getty Images

Sick of overpriced cocktails that cost more than your monthly rent? Tired of waiting for hours on end while your bartender -- excuse us, mixologist -- meticulously measures the components of your drink, before shaking it exactly 10 seconds, no more, no less? Well then get excited for the new trend in cocktail-mania: artisan ice.

According to the Washington City Paper, a D.C.-based restaurant called Second State, which will open on October 21, will be charging for clear ice. If you want a special ice cube in a handful of select drinks, you'll be paying $1 extra.

Second State's cocktail menu doesn't even stoop to calling its $1 ice cube "ice." It's a "hand-cut rock," thank you very much, and that's not all. You're forced to pay extra for these special rocks if you want them with drinks that don't necessarily come with ice, like whiskey drink or cocktails like a martini. If you order The Manhattan, The Martini and The Martinez, you're given the option to pay a dollar more for ice. For other cocktails, like The Penicillin, the rock is included. And still for others, the option of a rock isn't even given. We're afraid to ask what would happen if you asked for a rock where it wasn't offered.

What's so special about the ice? Phil Clark, Second State's bar manager, told Washington City Paper that "when it goes into a cocktail, it's crystal clear. It's purified water, so there's no minerally taste." When you make ice at home, there might be bubbles or cracks in it, but high quality ice is more dense, which means it melts slower and doesn't dilute your drink as fast.

The crystal-clear ice isn't home-frozen, but comes from boutique ice company Favorite Ice, which produces custom ice cubes for highly specific cocktails. The very fact that this year-old boutique ice company exists speaks to the growing demand for artisan ice. Indeed, specialty ice isn't new to the cocktail world -- a particular size and shape will dilute a certain way, and can thereby be yet another ingredient to enhance your cocktails. As the Wall Street Journal puts it, "The difference between a good drink and a great drink isn't just about the booze—it's about the ice."

What's unique about Second State's ice program is that it's charging extra; most restaurants view the cost of ice as a necessary expense, or simply account for it in the price of the cocktail. Second State must really want you to know how valuable your rock really is. Whatever the reason for the surcharge, the whole thing is reminiscent of restaurants charging extra for bread: unnecessary.

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