In its infancy, the question in Houston's cocktail scene was, "Are quality ingredients used?" Now, it is assumed that if you're going to serve cocktails you know what you're doing (or you'll be subject to mockery--your choice).
There is, however, an often-overlooked ingredient--ice. Believe it or not, good ice is often a tricky thing. Professional bartenders know (or, at least, should know) whether or not the ice they are provided with by restaurants and bars is perfectly clear, has an ideal amount of surface area and whether it's stable or melts quickly.
Moving Sidewalk in downtown Houston (in the former Goro & Gun space) made a name for itself thanks to its high-quality cocktail program. That program includes high-quality, crystal clear, hand-cut ice.
However, they will no longer be the only ones with access to the product, thanks to a spin-off company by Houston bartenders Alex Gregg and Aaron Lara. Both have a long history in Houston that includes work at Anvil Bar & Refuge, The Pass & Provisions and Moving Sidewalk. Gregg's resume includes the defunct but missed Goro & Gun (where Moving Sidewalk is now) and Lara's includes establishing the cocktail program at Lillo & Ella and his work at rising star restaurant Pax Americana.
The new company is called Ice Age and Moving Sidewalk owners Ryan Rouse and Brad Moore are also partners. Ice Age will supply other bars in the Houston area with the hand-cut ice that has made Moving Sidewalk so notable. Check out the video above to walk Alex Gregg's ice carving in action.
Producing crystal clear ice requires freezing water slowly--something automatic ice machines are incapable of accomplishing. Additionally, the water has to be free of impurities that can make it cloudy.
The ice is frozen into big blocks that weigh roughly 250 pounds. Once completely frozen, they are scored and sawed with a chainsaw into slabs and then cubes.
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Gregg and Lara also produce round, faceted spheres that are ideal for chilling spirits served "up," or straight. It's a beautiful touch bourbon aficionados especially appreciate.
Interestingly, Culturemap Houston announced that a bartender from Chicago just moved to Houston to open a competing business. She's being employed by Carson Hager, a managing director at KPMG who is invested in the bar business. He's the owner of The Commoner and The Boulevardier, less than a block away from Moving Sidewalk.
Gregg said yesterday he is aware of the newly-arrived competition and says, "It was said in the article that they're not sure that there is a market for it here, but we're sure that there is."
Bars and restaurants interested in ordering can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for samples and more information. Cubes will cost about 65 cents each and custom sizing is available. In addition to ice, Ice Age will produce sodas and syrups ideal for bartending and restaurant use as well.