The Aviary: 20 kinds of ice, but no bartenders

How many types of ice do you keep on hand for making cocktails?

At The Aviary in Chicago, they have over 20 different kinds of ice. That’s right. TWENTY. Cubes, spheres, crushed, hollow…TWENTY.

I feel like such an ice slacker! Before I wrote this cover story about Aviary’s ice program for Food Arts magazine, I couldn’t have named 20+ types of ice.  Turns out Aviary has its own ice room and a special “ice chef” to make all that ice.

But here’s what Aviary doesn’t have:  bartenders! And when I interviewed Craig Schoettler, who oversees Aviary, I was amazed to learn that he never even bartended before stepping into the role.  To learn, he developed an informal training exchange with craft cocktail whiz Troy Seidel.

“On his day off, I’d teach him how to make chicken; on my day off, he’d teach me how to make a Sazerac,” Schoettler recalled.

To read the article (and see the pictures of all those pretty pretty ice shapes!), pick up the September 2011 issue of Food Arts (no link, sorry). By the way, that gorgeous cover photo? It’s the Blueberry cocktail from Aviary. Never before have I had the impulse to LICK the cover of a magazine.