With temperatures dropping into the 20s this past week, the thought of a frosty drink in hand doesn’t sound the least bit appealing right now.
For cocktails, however, those frozen cubes are a necessary component of the drink-making process; the dilution is part of the chemistry of a well-made cocktail. And in some drinks, the cold components pack more of a punch than in others: Some creative bartenders are infusing adult beverages with flavored cubes that add a new note to the drink as they melt. (It’s called multitasking.) Here are five NYC bars offering flavored-ice-cube cocktails.
Xixa (241 South 4th Street, Brooklyn; 718-388-8860)
The cocktail menu here is not your usual mix of Mexican beverages (margaritas, micheladas, sangrias, and palomas). With a strong focus on agave in its many forms, the bar program at Xixa is a bit of a mix-and-match situation; patrons choose the mezcal or tequila and the accompaniments. Aguas frescas offer lighter selections of refreshing fruit-forward bevvies, but it’s the spirit-forward cubes that are the real draw for booze enthusiasts. Pick a cube (choices include a Mexican-inspired old fashioned complete with dried chile, piña colada, and margarita), and the friendly staff will help you pick your agave-based potion.
The Skylark (200 West 39th Street, 30th floor, 212-257-4577)
Mixologist Jimmy Swet is known for his love of the flavored cube — he’s compiled more than one NYC cocktail menu that features a version. At this swanky, mile-high cocktail bar, the renowned bartender offers guests fancy cocktails (and frozen fruit) to match the stunning views. The Fort Knox combines Elijah Craig bourbon, reposado mezcal, yellow chartreuse, and honey syrup, with a complex grilled lemon ice block.
District Tap House (246 West 38th Street, 212-221-1822)
This midtown joint may be known for its extensive beer list, but its cocktails are just as bold. Bartender Noble Harris has created an innovative list of drinks for the gastropub’s mixology-focused back bar. For a light and refreshing twist on the French 75, try the appropriately titled Midtown 75, with vodka, mint, house-made simple syrup, St. Germaine, lemon juice, and a long watermelon sphere, served in a collins glass. If you’re of the opinion that this time of year calls for whiskey, dip into Harris’s new take on the old fashioned; the mix of bourbon, brown sugar, and rhubarb bitters features a ginger-apple cube.
Jimmy (15 Thompson Street, 212-201-9118)
Another sweet Swet spot, this James Hotel bar serves unique interpretations of classic American cocktails with panoramas of the city. And its Legal in Vermont cocktail is ideal for taking in the changing fall (or what feels like winter now) scenery from above. A seasonally appropriate cinnamon ice block infuses the bourbon, maple syrup, more cinnamon, orange bitters, and muddled red shiso.
Sel Rrose (1 Delancey Street; 212-226-2510)
This early-20th-century-inspired oyster bar based on Rrose Sélavy, the feminine alter ego of artist Marcel Duchamp, offers more than just artistic decor. The cocktail menu was molded off the artist’s 1921 readymade perfume, Belle Haleine, and the lavender piscine incorporates a fragrant, flowery cube. Lavender buds are brewed into a tea, which is steeped into a purple-hued block. It rests in a pool of champagne, herbes de Provence syrup, and grapefruit bitters, and is garnished with a sprig of bud on top.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter @saraventiera.