Ice was the bling of the early 19th century and “none but the rich could wear it,” wrote Mark Twain in Life on the Mississippi. In those days, giant slabs of the stuff were harvested from lakes in New England, cut into chessboard blocks by horse and plow, and shipped to the wealthy—whether just over the Mason-Dixon or to destinations as far flung as India. One man, Frederic Tudor, pioneered the industry of frozen water throughout the early 1800s, but eventually the novelty of his wares melted when iceboxes became standard kitchen storage. Electricity solidified its undoing as a marketable product.
That is until the craft cocktail movement came along.
With the revival of classic cocktails, every detail of drinking them—down to small-batch bitters and handblown glassware—has become grounds on which to improve the experience. Ice is no exception. Since the 19th century, there has been little reason for the everyday drinker to concern herself with ice block delivery à la Frederic Tudor. But Hundredweight, an ice company in Queens, has changed that for New York City. All over America, good ice has become the norm in cocktail bars, whether harvested in individual cubes from a Kold Draft machine or from one 300-pound block like at Hundredweight. Owned and run in conjunction with neighboring cocktail bar Dutch Kills, the company harvests these perfectly-clear blocks from a Clinebell machine, scores and saws them into manageable pieces—including spears for Collins cocktails and large cubes for drinks on the rocks—and then delivers them to cocktail bars around the city. As for the remaining ice, the above is what ensues when ordering a Negroni at Dutch Kills.