We’ve long heard about sushi restaurants in the United States importing fish from Japan. Now bars are starting to do something similar—but rather than seafood being flown in from 5,500 miles away, they’re having ice sent across the Pacific.
In particular, bars across the U.S. have started to feature Kuramoto Ice in their drinks, Punch reported on Wednesday. The company, whose American arm launched in 2020, produces some of the clearest, least-diluting ice out there. And celebrated bartenders think that the difference between Kuramoto ice and U.S. ice is, well, clear.
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“We would rather import these ice sticks from Japan over getting something local . . . because they’re perfect,” Grace Pérez, the bar lead at Los Angeles’s Damian, told Punch. “You can really tell that someone put a lot of care and attention to this beautiful ice stick.”
Kuramoto takes about a week to produce its namesake product. Water from Japan’s Mount Haku, which is known to be soft, is frozen over 48 to 72 hours. During that time, most of the minerals are separated out, so the ice has extremely low levels of hardness and few, if any, impurities. An extended agitation process gets rid of microbubbles, resulting in dense ice that melts slowly, and then the ice is cut in a refrigerated room. When all is said and done, you end up with clear ice that doesn’t give a watery flavor to drinks as it dissipates.
Bartenders can tell that all of this work has gone into the product. Since Naoto Yonezawa started Kuramoto Ice USA just four years ago, about 200 bars and restaurants in the States have signed up to receive its Japanese ice. That includes Kato in L.A. and Bar Masa and Bar Moga in New York.
“If people are running a good program and they’re presented with a higher-quality alternative for something . . . they should adopt it if they care about quality,” Kato’s Austin Hennelly told Punch. “It’s worth it to get the best product.”
While in many places ice may be an afterthought to the spirits and other liquids going into a glass, Kuramoto is showing why it should take pride of place behind a bar. Your drink, after all, would be either a warm or watered-down mess without it.
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