Iceberg Ice - Gastro Obscura

Ingredients & Condiments

Iceberg Ice

In Newfoundland, the icebergs that float along the coast may end up in your cocktail.

When ordering a cocktail in Newfoundland, there’s a chance your Old Fashioned on the rocks is much older than you think. It’s no super-aged whiskey that’s racking up the years in your glass, but rather iceberg ice, a chilly local delicacy carved straight from icebergs floating by the Canadian coast.

Newfoundland sits in Iceberg Alley, the famed stretch of the Atlantic known for ushering southbound ’bergs, calved from Greenland glaciers, to the open sea. Starting in the early spring, the icebergs begin rolling through, inspiring locals to admire, and harvest, the large chunks of ice. Foraging for this frozen fare, however, is no easy task. While larger companies often use cranes, boats, and nets to do the job, smaller ice harvesters often have to get creative in wrangling up “bergie bits.” One man even harnessed the power of his .22 caliber rifle.

After they’re brought ashore, the chunks of ice are broken up into smaller bits, either by hammer or a mallet and thin pin, which will shape the pieces into tiny icebergs. Though they might be plopped into any drink in need of chilling, they’re often used in alcoholic beverages, perhaps to kill off any sneaky prehistoric pathogens that could be inside. And if you have a huge hankering for the stuff, you can find it sold by the bag at local general stores. Aside from the fact that chilling one’s drink with a 12,000-year-old specimen is pretty, well, cool, people love iceberg ice for its taste—or rather, lack thereof. Many claim that pre-Industrial Revolution water and air, free of the pollutants of today, give the ice its highly coveted tastelessness.

Those who love their ancient ice might be happy to know that iceberg season has been more active than ever, and recent years have yielded high numbers of ‘bergs floating down the alley. But, sadly, this is due in part to climate change, along with increased southern winds, as more and more ice begins to calve off from the Greenland ice shelf. When it comes to the fate of our glaciers, the incredibly cold, undeniably cool, and slightly concerning historical stuff in your cup is really just the tip of the iceberg.

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