The craft ice phenomenon has come to Montreal. Later than hipster capitals like Portland or Brooklyn, perhaps, but a new company, Les Marchands, will strive to get the city up to speed with "luxurious crystal clear ice distribution to bars, hotels, and restaurants." The Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve-based outfit was "inspired by the 1850s ice merchant business" and promises to offer a hand-cut product made with "99.9% pure water and the same freezing process as lakes and rivers."
Other craft ice producers, such as Washington, D.C.'s Favourite Ice, typically use a Clinebell machine—the same kind of freezer ice sculptors employ—and an assortment of Japanese band saws, chisels, and knives, to create super-dense, unclouded cubes (and spheres). This premium, boutique ice has become a hallmark, and clichéd accoutrement of cocktail purists the globe over, and has duly been met with snarky news coverage as a result. The supposed wisdom is that if customers freely spend $15 on a drink, they deserve a chunk of ice not made with tap water, and whose attributes conjure up diamonds. Think frozen bling in a tumbler, in other words, with a slower melt time than run-of-the-mill cubes.
Clearly, Les Marchands is on a mission with its fancy, aesthetically-superior ice. The company professes to exist in order "to help the city make a name for itself on the current international cocktail and mixology scene." Let's see how that ambition plays out. Look for the company's ice soon at five, yet-to-be-named Montreal bars (spoiler: it looks like Mayfair is one of them). Icy particulars to come.