Balls. Lovely, Lovely Ice Balls

Bartenders are probably the only people who say things like: ‘hmm, that’s good ice’ on a regular basis.

We resisted the urge to get our tongue stuck on this...

And with good reason, because a glass full of good ice can turn the humble gin and tonic into an all-time great drink, something that is unfortunately much misunderstood by customers.

Having recently used them for an event we were running, Eskimo Ice invited us to come to their factory for a look round. And so, on one of the hottest days of the year so far, we spent an hour breathing steam in New Covent Garden market.

Eskimo’s warehouse is an ice-carver’s dream. There are huge, 120KG blocks along one wall in a room full of tools you would expect to see in a mechanic’s workshop.

The drills, sanders and saws are used to turn the blocks into an almost limitless variety of sculptures, including luges, corporate logos, and our personal favourite, rather fetching visions of the female form.

Some of the blocks are milky white, while others are crystal clear. I asked how this was achieved and was told that to create the ice, water is bombarded with UV rays to eradicate bacteria, then filtered to remove any solid particles.

Where's Ueno San when you need him?

Once this is done, to create clear ice the water is constantly circulated by pumps as it cools, which prevents bubbles forming around the ice crystals. This process means it takes a week for one 120KG block to freeze. The water used in opaque blocks is not circulated, and so the resulting bubbles make the ice look milky.

The 120KG blocks really are huge, and probably a little unwieldy for use by bartenders would like to carve their own ice. However, Eskimo also supply smaller, 30KG blocks that measure 50 x 22 x 25cm, which would be perfect for the job. These cost £29.40 and can be delivered for free anywhere in Central London.

You’ve probably seen Eskimo Ice vans bowling about London’s streets, delivering the customary bags of cubed, crushed and flaked. However, they also supply ice balls in both 5.5 and 6.6cm diameters, the latter fitting perfectly in an Old Fashioned glass.

We were also particularly impressed with some large, oversized cubes we found in our sample pack. They fit snugly in a standard highball, and looked fantastic in the resulting Monkey 47 gin and tonics we made, keeping the drink freezing cold for ages.

High ABV spirits only in this, obviously...

Any bars or brands looking for unusual or creative sculptures or centerpieces should give Eskimo a buzz too.

They showed me plans for an ice bar that looked pretty epic, and at the slightly smaller end of the scale, they can create a sculpture that completely encases a bottle but still allows the liquid to be served. This looked great and showcased the bottle perfectly.

The team at Eskimo were keen to talk about the weird and wonderful projects they have been asked to work on, and were very enthusiastic when I mentioned cocktail competitions.

It seems that as long as they are given a bit of notice, ‘the answer is yes, what’s the question’ seems to be the case when it comes to designing eye-catching ice.

As regular competition judges ourselves, BarLifeUK would be very impressed if some of those oversized cubes were rocked out in a drink we had to score.

The Eskimo Ice website is well worth a look, and they are happy to have a chat on the phone if you have any questions about all-things-ice.

Visit the Eskimo Ice website here.