Behold the bourbon in the rocks. | Photo by Sara Havens
Behold the bourbon in the rocks. | Photo by Sara Havens

Neat, up, stirred, shaken, on the rocks — there are numerous ways to order a drink, and now, thanks the guys of Beyond Zero, there’s a new term: in the rocks. What may seem like a slight change in preposition has led to the creation of an ice machine that does the unthinkable: freeze liquor.

No longer will you have to dilute your cocktails with inferior, everyday ice. No longer will the taste of bourbon have to suffer if you prefer to sip it at colder temps. No longer will you have to throw away day-old wine. The Beyond Zero ice machine, manufactured right here in Louisville by Winston Industries, is the future of mixology.

Chris Maggio and others hover over the Beyond Zero machine. | Courtesy of Haymarket
Chris Maggio (left) and others hover over the Beyond Zero machine. | Courtesy of Haymarket

Insider first told you about the amazing contraption in April when owner Jason Sherman was testing prototypes. But now, it’s finally available for consumer use, and one of the first places it landed was at Haymarket Whiskey Bar, naturally. We were one of the first people through the doors of Haymarket last Friday when we got word they were trying it out.

Haymarket owner Matthew Landan, head bartender Chris Maggio and Beyond Zero’s VP of marketing/sales Tim Couch were hovered over the machine behind the bar like mad scientists. They would slowly approach the gadget as if it was going to get spooked and run away. Landan bravely poured the Heaven Hill bourbon in a slot, and the crew stood back, waiting for magic to appear before their eyes.

After nearly four grueling minutes of anticipation, we heard a plop. And then another plop. And another one. It was as if the ice machine was taking its first steps — and it was. To the average Joe, it might be one small ice cube for a drink, but in reality, it was one giant leap for mankind’s cocktails.

Beyond Zero took 90 proof bourbon and turned it into ice. Bourbon ice, to be exact. All those years industry professionals experimented with various forms of ice — from shaved to the large square cube to the baseball-sized nugget — to prevent your drink from being diluted, and now we have a solution.

Landan tells Insider what makes this technology so special is the neatness factor.

“The fact that, really, for the first time bars can now freeze spirits and add coldness to a beverage without dilution,” he says. “Before this, the best you had were items like whiskey rocks, which hurt like hell when they smashed into your teeth when drinking.”

The frozen bourbon resembles banana slices. | Photo by Sara Havens
The frozen bourbon resembles banana slices. | Photo by Sara Havens

As the spirited ice melts into your drink, the possibilities of flavor profile changes are endless, says Landan.

“A manhattan with vermouth ice cubes would taste like nearly straight bourbon at the beginning of the drink and change as the vermouth melts into the cocktail,” he explains. “Or imagine freezing absinth ice cubes for your shandy. You can now add spirit to beer and non-alcoholic beverages with a time release. The classic bourbon cocktail becomes something much more interesting if the only bourbon in the cocktail is frozen.”

Maggio pulled out three cubes with tongs and placed them in a standard rocks glass. The bourbon froze somewhere around -5 to -15 degrees Fahrenheit, and once placed in the room-temperature glass, it smoked a little like dry ice. Couch said the cubes are not dangerous to touch, like dry ice, but tongs should be used for the cleanliness factor.

He explained most liquors up to about 120 proof can be frozen in the machine, and it takes about four to five minutes depending on the proof to create cubes. Couch also showed a picture of him and actress Diane Keaton, who flew him out to Vegas when she heard about his machine. She loves putting ice in her wine, he said, and this allows her to do that without ruining the wine. Plus, whatever is leftover in the bottle can be frozen and used another time.

But let’s get back to bourbon.

Maggio poured more Heaven Hill over the cubes and placed the glass before me. I watched as the ice bonded together, then became smaller and smaller, eventually dissipating into the drink. But as I brought the glass to my mouth, it felt as if it had been chilled in the freezer. And the first sip was smooth as glass. Chilling liquor often takes away the “burn” associated with high-proof spirits, and I was able to enjoy the flavor of the 6-year-old bourbon without the jarring finish.

Beyond Zero is the future of cocktails. | Courtesy of Beyond Zero
Beyond Zero is the future of cocktails. | Courtesy of Beyond Zero

We also experimented with a manhattan on Friday, and I’ll say it was one of the best I’ve had. I prefer mine on the rocks and often have to deal with dilution as a repercussion of that choice. But this one was the perfect temperature — around 42 degrees once the bourbon melted into the vermouth and bitters — and absolutely no water flooded my flavor profile.

Couch informed me this is the second machine to land in the Louisville market, the first being at Charr’d Bourbon Kitchen and Lounge inside the Louisville Marriott East. They’re selecting a few bars to try them out in, and next up will be Butchertown Grocery.

Haymarket will have their machine throughout the next month, so I encourage you to go check it out for yourself. You won’t believe it until you sip it.

Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville. She's known around town as the Bar Belle and updates her blog (barbelleblog.com) daily. She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."


Comment

Facebook Comment
Post a comment on Facebook.