Today’s topic is ice.
Or lack thereof when traveling to Europe.
This is one thing Americans need to know about traveling in Europe. You don’t get ice in your drinks or at least certainly not to the extend you do at home. In America, ice is a common commodity. It comes in big bins at restaurants, bars and hotels and is in every American’s freezer. It’s so common we don’t even think of it, unless we see a bartender stuffing so much of it in a glass that you know your cocktail contains more of it than actual liquor.
This doesn’t happen in Europe because drinks of any kind – cocktails included – either don’t have any ice or very little of it. This comes as quite a shock to those of us used to having cold beverages. My first experience with this was the morning after the night before with a lovely Irish lass named Lorianne whom I was visiting in London. We had gone for a typical “bangers and mash” breakfast and I wanted iced tea to help revive me (Lorainne had matched me beer for beer as she took me through the bars).
In London all they have is hot tea but I figured I could just have it put in a tall glass and ask the bartender for some cubes of ice. That turned out to be next to impossible because the bartender hardly had any ice. I later learned Lorainne did not even own an ice tray. She did not find this the least bit peculiar.
Lorainne did point out one important thing to me: I could get cold beers in the pubs. Yes! The warm, room temperature beers, she explained, were the ales. The lagers were served cold. Since I prefer lagers anyway, I was able to enjoy cold beer the entire trip.
In Italy, my dad went to a hotel lobby one evening asking where the ice bucket was and the location of the ice machine. The person at the desk looked at him with a puzzled look and then said, very politely, “sir, we don’t have ice here.”
So you can pretty much forget about getting ice in Europe. Although when it comes to cocktails, you don’t have to worry about paying for a drink that is mostly ice. There, it’s mostly alcohol with the mix and I’ll drink to that, of course.