Craft bartender and bev industry entrepreneur, Rob Boyland, could easily sell ice to an eskimo...if he wasn’t an eskimo bro already. Though Boyland’s first and foremost love lies with liquid, a brotherly bond led to something more solid. He, Broc Smith, owner of Sarasota Liquor Locker, and Jason Donahey, started Eskimo Bros. Ice last year in response to the snowballing appreciation of top-shelf spirits and local programs like the Sarasota Whiskey Society. An influx of elevated craft cocktails seemed to be materializing on menus left and right of Sarasota’s most intuitive restaurants and bars. After breaking the ice, many a time, the Eskimo Bros. formulated how to enhance the guest experience even more, and with total transparency. 

They committed to the business by finding a warehouse to rent and pushing its A/C cooling abilities to ensure a nippy facility for production. And “after no small expense,” Boyland admits, they purchased two specialty ice-making machines. The machines freeze 300 lb blocks of ice each, which take two days to freeze entirely. Believe there was some trial and error—at first, attempting to lift the block with their brute muscle and slippery fingertips. Needless to say, a hydraulic engine hoist with metal hooks frozen into the sides of the ice now lifts the massive block out and sets it down to be chopped into smaller chunks before going onto a butcher’s band to be precisely measured into 2” X 2” and hand-sliced into perfect cubes. These cloudless quadrates of splendor go through a lot of love and labor, before getting personally packaged and delivered to the walk-in coolers of local namesake accounts such as Made, Ophelia’s, Sage, JPan, Michael’s On East, State Street, 99 Bottles, Social, Sarasota Modern, Art Ovation, SKOB, Hana Sushi Lounge, The Doctor’s Office and The Waterfront.

Esoteric bars of the above pedigree continually source Eskimo Bros.’ ice, knowing well, “You’re meant to experience a beverage with all your senses,” says Boyland. “The first thing you do is see it—the clarity and visual appeal of the cocktail is undeniable.” After soaking in the eye-catching aesthetic, you’re tasting it. And while the business name is certainly tongue and cheek, the Eskimo Bros.’ ethereal purpose is exactly that. The imbibers’ experience on their tongue and in their mouth is jarringly distinctive, compared to the frozen cubes that have been sitting in plastic molds and are getting scooped out of an ice machine. “Here, there’s no adulteration of flavor—it’s just pure unfiltered water,” Boyland goes on. By nature, ice cubes freeze from the outside-in, creating a cloud of air bubbles, sediment and total dissolved solids to form in the middle.

“So if you let your ice cube melt for long enough, while you’re sipping on a 20-year-old pour of whiskey, that last diluted sip is going to taste like pool water,” he scoffs. “So what we do is take advantage of our machines’ freeze plate and circulation pump that makes use of directional freeze, right from the bottom-up.” This ultimately creates a pure, crystal-clear rig that pushes out all the impurities, avoids any off-notes like chlorine and will take on average, two hours to eventually melt.

Meanwhile, the Eskimo Bros. are pushing beverage boundaries even further to give bartenders more creativity and control over their cocktails. Recently, they’ve been toying with cutting different ice shapes to fit into specific glassware and freezing elements like thyme, rosemary or orchids inside the cubes for subtle notes of herbal flavors. They’ll even custom design stamps, like a restaurant’s logo, to etch into the ice for dramatic appeal when a customer orders their drink “on the rock.” “What we’re seeing in the current cocktail movement—as far as the expectations in quality of product and guest experience goes—is this isn’t something that’s going to disappear,” Boyland says with a smirk. Most definitely with pun intended. 

'Stainless', a luxury cocktail with 100-year-old Macallan scotch and CBD-incfused honey, at Sage SRQ.