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The Big Chill
Forecasts of a scorching summer are presenting event organisers with a new challenge – keeping cool. What better way than by adding some ice into the mix?
It sounds like sacrilege: Piper-Heidsieck is urging us to cool down this summer by drinking its Champagne over ice. But, given that Magners succeeded in moving cider out of the underage-drinkers-and-folk-singers bracket simply by adding frozen water, perhaps it’s time we were more open-minded. After all, Champagne on the rocks was good enough for Blur’s Alex James and Notting Hill’s Rhys Ifans at the achingly hip community fundraiser Whitechapel Art Plus Drama Party recently.
To make the prospect more palatable, the company has commissioned designer Jaime Hayon to come up with red, curvy-stemmed Piper-Heidsieck Piscine glasses, coolers and buckets, which have now been installed in some of London’s top bars. Marketing manager Lindsay Brown has a suggestion for the ultimate finishing touch: ensure the ice cubes are made from Piper-Heidsieck too.
Elsewhere in London, bars expect a run on frozen cocktails, and many of them are coming up with innovative ways to keep drinks super-cool. Our favourite? Mahiki’s piña colada served in a scooped-out frozen pineapple.
Richard Cubbins, executive chef at caterer Alison Price, agrees that ice is becoming a staple of hot summer parties. ‘It works particularly well for fish,’ he says. ‘We use a lot of smoked salmon bars, where our chefs carve the salmon on ice blocks in front of guests. It’s interactive, smart, and it keeps the food cool.’ For a truly sumptuous event, he suggests a caviar ice bar. ‘If you’re going to spend £2,000 on a kilo of caviar, why not spend another £1,000 on making it look amazing?’
And it’s not just bars that can be made out of ice. Carving company The Ice Box can turn its hand – or rather, chainsaw – to almost anything. ‘We’ve done full-size cars, houses, a replica of the Trevi Fountain,’ says managing director Philip Hughes. The firm also cut an 8ft-tall unicorn for the launch of Stella McCartney’s shop and engraved a full-length bar with the signature of Wayne Rooney’s fiancée, Coleen McLoughlin, for her most recent birthday party.
Hughes says even the humble ice cube is under scrutiny these days. ‘People organising top-end events are scrupulous about the provenance of everything, so all the water we use is purified.’
If none of this sounds chilled enough for your event, there is one other option: the Absolut Ice Bar in Heddon Street. Kept at a consistent -5˚C, it’s literally the coolest venue in London, and is available for private hire on a minimum-spend basis. Up to 270 people can use the venue’s Below Zero bar, and 60 can don insulated capes and sip vodka from ice glasses in the Ice Bar itself.
Absolut Ice Bar tel: 020 7478 8910
Alison Price tel: 020 7840 7640
The Ice Box tel: 020 7498 0800,
Mahiki tel: 020 7493 9529
Piper-Heidsieck widely available
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, Summer 2007.