Next Monday Camper English and I are leading a seminar about exotic cocktail ice at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic in New York.
I thought it would be a supremely clever idea to serve Zacapa rum over 10,000 year old ice, marking one end of the ice history spectrum. (On the other, more modern end, we’ve got two-inch pefrectly clear ice cubes and a demo of how to make hollow ice spheres, just like the cool kids at Aviary.)
And I thought, how hard can it be to have an iceberg shipped down to NYC? Right?
Well, it turns out that it takes some doing. Here’s the process:
1. Do you have a friend who lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland? Good.
Convince them that it would probably be fun and a little adventurous to go to the coast near where an iceberg has run aground. This actually doesn’t require a lot of looking, because in the spring icebergs that have calved off Greenland glaciers head toward their certain demise in the warm Gulf Current. Around Newfoundland, they get all panicky and confused and run aground, just like those tropical sea turtles mesmerized by hotel lights. Once the icebergs get hung up, they start to break up into pieces ranging from the size of a suburban house to the size of a toaster. These are called “bergy bits.” Really.
2. Have your friend convince a fishermen that it would actually be fun and a little adventurous to go to the mouth of the harbor and haul out a piece of ice about the size of a dorm refrigerator. This might involve the a bottle of rum or two. Screech is preferred.
3. Take the ice and hack it down so it fits in a big plastic picnic cooler you’ve purchased at Wal-Mart. Yes, they have Wal-Marts in Newfoundland.
4. Seal it with a whole role of duct tape.
5. Take it to the FedEx. Remain calm when the FedEx people shake their heads mournfully when you declare the contents as “ice,” then tell you that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires “prior clearance” for ice.
Call the FDA. Explain your problem to the nice lady who answers the Prior Clearance hotline. Your explanation will be followed by a long silence, then the lady will say “Do you mean iceberg lettuce?” When you explain further, the lady will say, “Oh, you mean like an iceberg floating in the sea?” Say, yes, and after another long silence, she’ll tell you that, no, you don’t need prior clearance for that. She'll say to have the FedEx person call her.
6. Back at FedEx the next morning, fill out four (4) additional lengthy, detailed forms involved in shipping an iceberg. This includes a form to be filed with the NAFTA people. Really. You’l know all about these forms owing to the increasingly aggravated and annoyed emails and texts from your friend, or former friend — it's not quite clear where things stand. Pay more than $300 to ship ice overnight to New York.
7. Track the shipment on the FedEx website. It’s being sent to a cold storage place in Queens, where you convinced someone that it would be fun and a litte adventurous to accept a cooler of iceberg ice and keep it in their walk-in frezer for the weekend. When the cooler misses the FedEx connection in Maspeth, slap forehead and say, “Shit!” Then be thankful when an afternoon van picks it up and delivers it.
8. A couple of days later, board flight to New York. Go to room where ice seminar will be held. Open the cooler and hope that enough bergy bit remains to hack up with ice picks and put into about 75 glasses. (If you're from the FDA and are reading this, these are "decorative" ice pieces, as per the form.)
Also hope it’s ice from the lower part of a glacier. Because then the air bubbles are so compacted from the sheer weight of the glacier that they pop and fizz as the ice melts. And then you can lean forward and inhale 10,000 year old air as it’s released from its icy tomb, where it’s been waiting for you since before written history began.
In a hotel ballroom. In midtown Manhattan.
Hope to see you on Monday at Manhattan Cocktail Classic.