You may have noticed the ice in your cocktail glass getting bigger, better, and clearer at a select few Valley bars. At UnderTow, the underground tiki bar that opened in August, some of the best-selling drinks arrive chilled, stirred on crystal-clear cubes that fill the glass perfectly.
But UnderTow doesn’t cut their own ice, a point of pride turned national trend among craft cocktail bars all over the country. Despite the many inhibiting factors — including the necessary sophisticated filtration systems, expensive equipment, lack of adequate space, not to the mention the liabilities inherent in manual sawing — many bars have opted to cut their own ice. The alternative? Cloudy, quickly-melting stuff that doesn't live up to the quality of the cocktails themselves..
UnderTow doesn’t cut their own ice, however, because they don’t have to.
Brian Goodwin and Kurtis Williams, beverage director and bartender, respectively, at The Gladly, have started their own cocktail ice company, a separate entity from the restaurant, called Artisan Ice. Bartenders were begging Goodwin and Williams to help them outsource the task, and now the company aims to sell high-quality, customizable cubes to bars, restaurants, and hotels.
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The duo's ice is currently served at UnderTow, one of Artisan’s first clients, as well as at The Gladly’s sister restaurant, Citizen Public House, and nearby at chef Matt Carter’s restaurant The House. Goodwin says Artisan’s Ice will also be at Carter’s upcoming concept, The Fat Ox, when it opens in Scottsdale, and soon at Counter Intuitive, the sister concept to UnderTow. The pair have their sights set on numerous hotels and bars in the following months. Sooner rather than later, Goodwin says, they’d like to enter the Tucson market as well.
“We’ve always been cutting ice here at The Gladly,” Goodwin says of his bar program, known for boasting a dizzyingly tall shelf of bourbons and whiskies — the kinds that, when stirred into spirit-forward cocktails, demand the best ice possible. “But I had some friends ask me, ‘Hey, could you cut ice for me as well?’ I was a week into deciding whether I was going to when more people started asking.”
“That’s when we decided to lock this down as a business,” Goodwin says about the origins of Artisan Ice, which is still growing out of some extra space at The Gladly. “I was lucky enough to have guys here that would let me cut ice blocks with a chainsaw.”
The choice to enter the co-packing industry echoes similar moves that have been made in larger cities, where space is limited and rent is high. Artisan Ice, Goodwin says, is modeled after cocktail ice companies like JustIce in Chicago and Hundredweight in NYC, a company born, similarly to Artisan Ice, out of Dutch Kills, a craft cocktail stalwart in Long Island City.