Pacific Cocktail Haven in San Francisco and The Monarch Cocktail Bar & Lounge in Kansas City, Mo., are adding one more layer to their branding to make themselves even more memorable to their customers: They are branding their ice.
The former stamps its initials, PCH, into large (2-inch x 1.5-inch x 1.25-inch) ice cubes, while the Midwest joint stamps butterflies onto its ice.
“This is furthering our brand,” says Kevin Diedrich, owner and partner at Pacific Cocktail Haven. “It’s the takeaway for guests. They take away the little details—and all the little details equal the overall experience. It’s having these nuances that, if you notice them, they’re amazing. If you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss them. It’s what we do; thoughtful service and thoughtful cocktails.”
Brocke Schulte, bar director at The Monarch, agrees. “From a marketing standpoint, the more you can present your brand, the better. I want everyone to be thinking of the butterfly, no matter what they’re drinking.”
Diedrich uses the branded ice in five cocktails—the Leeward Negroni, Ultra Magnus, Extra Fancy, Miso Old Fashioned, and Simple Jack—and brands about 80 cubes a night. “It was about how to make our ice stand out from everyone else’s ice,” he explains.
To brand his ice, he uses copper branders made in Hong Kong, which are simply pressed into the ice cubes where they leave an impression. After the branders have marked two cubes, they usually need to be run under hot water to get them ready for the next one. His ice cubes are all custom cut and branded on the largest side, right in front of customers. “It’s amazing if you let them see it,” Diedrich says. “People at the tables don’t see it happening and then look down when they get their drink, and see the branding on top.”
The ice cubes may be memorable, but social media’s helping drive that, too. “It gets us a lot of attention,” he says. “It’s always been our strategy to have aesthetically pleasing cocktails. There’s a lot of thought behind them.”
Likewise, at The Monarch. “We can brand the ice cubes pre-service but doing it in front of the guests is a great little show,” Schulte says. “The bartenders are always branding the ice before the guests so it’s an experience, but you also see their phones come out and they’re photographing it and tagging us on social media.”
The bar has two different stamps: one features a monarch butterfly and looks very similar to a chandelier that hangs above the bar. This is used to brand ice cubes only for The Monarch Negroni.
The second stamp features a more generic butterfly—similar to the bar’s brandmark—and stamps ice cubes for some other drinks that are named after butterflies, such as the Apollo and the Swallowtail. It brands 150 to 200 ice cubes per week.
The Monarch’s branders cost $50 to $100. “It depends how much detail you want on them,” Schulte explains, “though on a translucent cube, only so much detail can be seen.”