King Cube may have Atlanta’s coolest product

King Cube owners Jeff and Hayden Banks started their specialty cocktail ice company just before the pandemic hit. Courtesy of Jose Pereiro
King Cube owners Jeff and Hayden Banks started their specialty cocktail ice company just before the pandemic hit. Courtesy of Jose Pereiro

Clear ice cubes melt slowly, and won’t water your drink down quickly

What is it like to open a specialty cocktail ice company, just as your restaurant and bar clients are shut down due to a global pandemic? It’s not cool.

Still, King Cube owners Jeff and Hayden Banks took the opportunity to fine-tune their company, which manufactures and delivers high-quality, hand-cut ice to bars, restaurants and caterers. The married couple started making ice in 2018, with a word-of-mouth service to Atlanta area bars and, in the fall of 2019, found their current home in an industrial park in Doraville.

Both have worked in the restaurant industry for a decade. Hayden has a background in marketing and advertising, while Jeff’s experience is in bar managing.

“While working at Brush Sushi (Izakaya in Decatur), I fell in love with clear ice,” Jeff Banks said. “I quickly realized a need for quality ice for cocktails in Atlanta. For a while, I thought someone should do this, and then it transitioned to ‘I should do this.’”

For a bar program, large, transparent cubes of ice provide an image boost. It’s a luxury that you don’t get from a home bar. Enter King Cube, providing flawless, hand-hewn ice that looks like glass, with all of the beauty and none of the prep work for a bar manager.

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This Old-Fashioned is anchored by crystal clear King Cube ice, stamped with the company's brand. Courtesy of Jose Pereiro
This Old-Fashioned is anchored by crystal clear King Cube ice, stamped with the company's brand. Courtesy of Jose Pereiro

Credit: The Cocktail Shaker

Credit: The Cocktail Shaker

Why does good ice matter? King Cube’s 2-inch cubes are not just crystal clear to be pretty.

“It does add a visual aspect," Banks said, “but it also affects dilution rate of a drink — it melts slowly, and won’t water your drink down quickly.”

It also provides optimal coldness, and clear ice eliminates air bubbles, which can cause ice to melt faster and impart unwanted aromas and tastes to a drink.

King Cube uses directional freezing to achieve its pristine ice. A bathtub-size trough gets filled with tap water that is filtered through coconut filtration in a six-stage process. The locally made machine has pumps that continually circulate water, and a freezer plate on the bottom that chills while deoxygenating.

“When you are able to control the direction of the freezing, you can slowly remove extra mineral deposits,” Banks said. “We suction off that water, and what you are left with is a clear, 300-pound block. The process takes 48 hours — or about 70 hours during summertime in Georgia.”

Using a specially made cart, the block is rolled into a walk-in freezer, customized with a table made out of cutting board material and a food-grade bandsaw.

“It really has been a learning curve,” Banks said. They used to do all their cutting in a freezer that stayed at minus 15 degrees, using with a tile saw, which he said was “a step up from our first chainsaw.”

Next, the ice is bagged in this sanitary room. They used to use zip-close bags, he said. “Now we have vacuum sealing with our logo.”

King Cube has the capacity to make about 12 blocks of ice at a time. Each block will make up to 750 standard cubes. There are three sizes available: the standard 2-inch, a highball cube, and a Collins glass cube.

Clients include Kimball House, Watchman’s, Leon’s, Tip Top Cocktails, the Commerce Club, Forza Storico, Ruby Chow’s and the Chastain. King Cube also can add a company’s logo, pressed into the ice using a metal brand.

“As much as we love to say, ‘it’s just frozen water,’ we’ve found that it’s not that simple," Banks said. "When COVID-19 closed restaurants in March, my wife and I not only lost our full-time jobs behind bars, but we also went months without sales. Needless to say, we’re beyond happy to see restaurants open again, and grateful to be working with some of the best bars in Atlanta.”

During the time they were closed, he said, “people started reaching out to get our ice for themselves, and we knew it was time to shift our focus. After months of trial and error with packaging for home consumers, we’re finally ready.”

King Cube clear ice cubes will be available in 12-packs at area package stores by the end of November.

Whether you serve an Old-Fashioned anchored by one of their large clear cubes at home, or marvel at it while out at a bar, think about the journey of that frozen jewel.

“It’s been a long road to get to this point, with a surprising amount of hurdles,” Banks said.

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