Chainsaw Thursday

Chainsaw Thursday

Today, I was sad and tired on the way to work.  I stopped by the local bitters store on my way in, Tessa, the 7th most beautiful woman in the world asked me what I was doing on my, “day off,” when I responded, “Chainsaw Thursday,” she responded, more slyly than anyone else could, “that doesn’t sound too bad.”

If you know me, you know I take ice way too seriously and to cap off the gnarlyness I have begun to enjoy Chainsaw Thursday like my own private weekly Super Bowl.

What is chainsaw Thursday?

Zane Harris Chainsaw thursday

Zane Harris makes the first cut of Chainsaw Thursday

A question I shall answer in great depth, though by its name, you know the key time and the key ingredient.

Location: Loading Dock at Mistral Kitchen

Blue Steel, Blair Bear and a chainsaw, calm down ladies.

The Cast: Zane Harris, Andrew Bohrer, guest stars include William (DUCK! Because he is about to throw something) Belickis and Jay Kuehner and Blair Argust

Jay Kuehner

Karate?!?!?!? Jay Kuehner shows that Chainsaw Thursday isn't all meditation and professionalism.

Tools:  Underberg, Sandwiches, Tape Measure, Ice Pick, Chainsaw, Band Saw, 300 lb Block of Ice, True Grit, iPod full of Steely Dan


Why:  To get the good, bestest, pure crystal clear ice for the patrons of Mistral Kitchen and Rob Roy

Double why: Going to drop some science on you, alcohol is 12/13ths the density of water, meaning water sinks in alcohol, which is why you need to mix drinks correctly to provide proper dilution and a consistent drink.  Also, it is why ice should sink in water but it doesn’t because cold cold ice is full of very temperature sensitive air, but not the ice that I am cutting up.  It is air free and thusly very dense; it sinks and doesn’t melt into the spirit or drink that I give you.

There has been a lot of talk on the interwebs about how to get clear ice; the answer is very easy and very American: pay someone else to do it. Frankly, with all this buzz, The MacCallan making Ice ball machines (I am an ice balling machine) the Japanese impact on American craft bartending and  us bartenders’ race to beat each other press, many people are half assing the, “ice race.”  Zane and I are full assing this and I thought we could tell you the super simple way to do it yourself.  Once a week, Zane and I get a 300lb block of deoxygenated, purified, and agitated whilst freezing ice delivered to my loading dock.  In short, we chop it up, while we talk about how great our employees are, how fair our girlfriends are, our hopes, our dreams and about though what we are doing is stupid, the fact that we engage in Chainsaw Thursday is proof that we have chosen the correct profession.

In Seattle, we get the ice from Allied Ice or Creative Ice though I can not endorse either service because one is stupid expensive and doesn’t return and the other I can describe in no way other than lazy. But call them is you want ice because you don’t have any fucking other options.

Commitment to the craft:  I want to go on the record and say that Chainsaw Thursday is not a gimmick.  And that though the ice created on Chainsaw Thursday is way fucking better than anything you make in your freezer it absolutely doesn’t matter.  I hand cut rocks (for any drink on the rocks) including a lot of Jack Daniels (which is crap) and have one cocktail on the menu, that though very tasty, I’m certain is often ordered for the ice.  I do the ice because I know it is better for the guest even if they don’t, and I can’t speak for Zane, but I bet he just does this too, because he has to. Best thing about Chainsaw Thursday though, is that, I’m pretending that this is work.

Measure twice, Cut once

So Zane bought an electric chainsaw, I’m going to call her “slicey,” so Zane brings slicey over and we cut the block into 6, 50lb blocks.  Because 50lbs is about as big as you can fit on a band saw, but we’ll come back to that.   Hi mom, if you are reading this, we totally wear goggles and safety vests.  Anyway, Zane and I consider slicey a, “food chainsaw, “thusly she is tasked only to ice and really doesn’t need to be lubed, just cleaned and dried off.  The ice gets delivered at about 11am, and we let it sit out until 2pm so that it, “tempers,” ice that is too cold shatters instead of making a clean cut.  And 300lbs of ice doesn’t have a great angel’s share in 3 hours. We used to score these 50 lb blocks to cut later, until I remembered that I had a huge fuck off band saw that can and often does cut livestock in half

The ice is not kosher.

thumb remover


I realized that I could put the 50lb blocks onto a machine designed to cut bone, and puddles aside, the machine was generally unaware that I was even cutting anything.  So I take the 6, 50lb blocks and cut them down to about 220 3×3 inch cubes.  Our rhythm is down and though it took about 4 tries to get it all correct, the whole process takes about 1 hour with a cost per cube less than the tax it costs to sell the scotch we serve on the rock.  The only downfall to this is that if Zane and I need to talk about our feelings, we have to go out to lunch after because our shit is so tight.

Crystal ball by the hoof at Rob Roy

I can’t hold off the bragging anymore, we own this.  Check out this cocktail on ice so clear that you can read the label through the glass.

Ardbeg Scotch on Hand cut ice

Clarity, Cut, Color and Single Malt


Yet I still reiterate, this doesn’t matter.  To quote a better man than me, “A statue of Buddha built without soul has no meaning.”  Carve ice, strap a vibrator to a bin of cold water to try and get clearer ice (doesn’t work, tried it) or even buy a chainsaw and a band saw, if you do this for any reason other than to make a better drink for your guest, you are doing it for the wrong reason and you should stop.  Otherwise, were is the answer on clear, quality ice.

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13 Responses to Chainsaw Thursday

  1. The Chiz says:

    America: Fuck Yeah. I am on this train.

  2. Ron says:

    Hard fucking core.

  3. wasabi prime says:

    Holy crap. That ice is nice. I love the devotion to the detail and purity of ingredients.

  4. alcohology says:

    Damn. I keep forgetting to come by. Well done.

  5. Josh Durr says:

    At Tonic on Fourth ( The bar I consulted on to open up in Cincinatti, Ohio ), We have been ordering ice for awhile now in the 300lb block format. As making pure ice was damn near impossible in house. Not having the proper machine that does this.

    Although we thought about just buying the 4k-12k machine(s) that makes the damn ice blocks. Essentially I was told that it continued to agitiate the ice as it slowly froze the block, and the agitator moved slowly out. Eventually it freezes the agitator in the ice they cut of that piece with a chainsaw. Then chop the blocks in to 300lb pieces.

    I have yet to actually cut the ice with a chainsaw or a meat-cutter though ( need to try this ). We generally just break it down and store it with an ice pick, and make our ice balls & punch blocks for storage from there by hand.

    This combined with the trials and tribulations of owning a Kold Draft. Prove to be a big pain in the ass, as I am sure you know.

    This seems more efficient and definitely more fun way to go about it. Something very Pacific Northwest / Bounty Paper Towel about a chainsaw.

    I found also in experimenting that we played with levels of freezing and got dramatically different results.

    I purchased a government issue deep freezer and we played with storage of the ice at -20 to -80 celsius. ( thats damn cold ) Interesting results more brittle to chip. But denser. Takes away from clarity. But it seems it will last longer and chill longer/faster. Than the other ice.

    More study is needed here. For now I own a very expensive freezer that freezes our ice more than we may actually need. But I gotta deal and I am a sucker for a deal.

  6. Clay says:

    That’s hot. Err, cold. You know what I’m trying to say. God I love it when people pay attention to the details.

  7. Rod says:

    this was a fun read and it’s nice to see a commitment to quality like this. however, one of your science facts is wrong. ice does not float in water because of trapped air. i mean, some ice may float higher then other ice due to this. but you can take the purest ice in the world and it will always float in water. this is due to the shape of the crystal that is formed when water freezes. this crystal takes up more room then the same amount of liquid water and is therefore less dense. and therefore it floats

    now, alcohol is also less dense then water, and so it may be that very pure ice will sink in alcohol. the guys writing this post know far more about that case then i do. but ice in water will always float

  8. JC Chemist says:

    Very pure ice won’t sink in alcohol either unless the alcohol is mighty strong. 111 proof to be exact. That would be a helluva drink.

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  11. sommantics says:

    Whats the make and model of that band saw? Any issues with your cut blocks fusing back together during storage?

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