A few years ago, Matt Briggs had what you might call a cool idea: to launch an artisan ice business servicing Sacramento’s bars and restaurants.
Having worked at fine dining establishments in Hawaii for 12 years, the former bartender and Sacramento native did some research and learned that high-end bars in cities like Miami and Los Angeles sourced their ice from vendors who turn out crystal-clear cubes that make cocktails look gorgeous and taste better. Thus was The Block Artisan Ice Co. born.
Conventional ice is marred by cloudiness, so Briggs employs a special ice maker that agitates the water as it freezes from the bottom up, resulting in pristine, glasslike blocks. He uses an Alaskan lumber mill chainsaw to cut the 400-pound blocks into slabs, which are further cut into bars and then fist-size cubes using a band saw and a commercial meat slicer. Because the water Briggs uses is highly filtered, it doesn’t contain any of the impurities that could alter a drink’s flavor.
The company currently sells its ice to a couple dozen bars and restaurants in Sacramento, Napa and Reno. “Artisan cocktails have been on the rise for years now, and ice is just another ingredient to take the drink to the next level,” explains Brigg’s sister and co-owner, Heather Briggs. “Our ice doesn’t water down the drink, and it’s beautiful to look at.” Bars can even imprint their logo onto cubes using brass stamps that the company has fabricated.
The owners hope to make artisan ice the norm at fi ne restaurants and bars and even with home bartenders looking to step up their game. The cubes are sold at select Nugget Markets and at their facility. Custom orders—think fruit, herbs or even entire bouquets frozen into cubes—are also available. (707) 721-2383; blockice.com