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the nice company joseph biolatto and brittiny rae the nice company joseph biolatto and brittiny rae

Meet The Nice Company

You’re all too familiar with ice’s ability to provoke a brain-freeze, to make you sigh an “ahhhh” of relief on a hot day, or to make that pleasing tinkling sound as you drop it into a glass. But do you know what makes a truly good ice cube, the kind you need to mix up great cocktails?

The Secret to Great Cocktails? Good Ice !

the nice company ice serving cocktail

The Secret to Great Cocktails? Good Ice !

Though it may appear straightforward, ice conceals more complexity than you’d expect within its cubed contours.

Be it a Margarita or a Cosmopolitan, the purity and cooling power of the ice used plays a role in the quality of the cocktail. Its rate of dilution is important: As far as a bartender is concerned, “good ice” is ice that melts at just the right pace, in a way that complements and enhances the spirits involved.
Take Cointreau for example: It tends to become smoother and more velvety when chilled just right. 

The nice company joseph biolatto perfect crystal ice cutting

So. what sets a good ice cube apart from your average freezer slush? We visited a covert ice lab in Paris’s 20th arrondissement to find out.

At The Nice Company, former bartenders Brittini Rae and Joseph Biolatto have made a name for themselves creating premium-quality ice. Their cubes are crystal-clear, free of air bubbles, and available in a range of charming forms, including spheres and gold ingots. Some even contain mint leaves or bits of orange. They’ve turned ice-making into an entire business—not the easiest job, especially when you consider that they do it at -10°C (or that cutting ice often involves use of a chainsaw).

But none of that matters to them. What does is helping Paris’s craft bartenders create incredible cocktails by providing them with exceptional-quality ice. Because if your ice is good, odds are your cocktail will be too.

"We don't sell ice, we sell time"
The Nice Company

A dedicated ice shop in Paris

The nice company brittini rae ice cutting

A dedicated ice shop in Paris

Dressed in insulated coats, protective glasses, and gloves, the pair saws away at slippery blocks of frozen water, icy puddles at their feet. Nearby, blocks of ice freeze in containers filled with water that’s being constantly filtered, 24 hours a day. The containers have to be checked continuously to ensure they stay completely free of contamination.

From their little Parisian workshop, Rae and Biolatto produce the ice used by some of the French capital’s most prestigious bars and hotels. Fun fact: Rae, a native of California, is none other than the granddaughter of Bill McCoy, the Prohibition era's most legendary bootlegger. Parisian-born Biolatto meanwhile, comes from a line of bartenders and is the owner of Paris’s Baton Rouge bar, which he founded 10 years ago. 

the nice company joseph biolatto and brittini rae

Their love for each other as a couple is paralleled by their mutual passion for ice. That overlooked ingredient that, more often than not, is crucial to shaking up a good cocktail. It was 18 months ago, en route to San Diego, that these two thirty-somethings decided to open a dedicated ice shop in Paris. Its name? The Nice Company. They started their new adventure from their little apartment near the Place de la République. “For six months, we had all our equipment on the kitchen table. The freezer hummed all night long, and in the morning we had to cut, pack, and prep everything for same-day delivery. And we were still bartending in the evening to pay the bills.” 

That experience was the basis for their motto “we don’t sell ice, we sell time.” Time, along with a guaranteed “wow” effect: Their ice is a thing of beauty—pure, clear, free of air bubbles, hypnotically shaped, and sometimes infused with orange, mint, or even flowers. 

Ice-making felt like a natural extension of their work as bartenders—a way to provide great Parisian bars with the high-quality ingredients they deserve. 

Our greatest pleasure is seeing smiles on our fellow bartenders' faces when we deliver them our ice

Admittedly, the ice you’re likely to find in most French bars isn’t exactly high-quality. And that’s precisely what this pair is trying to change. “The ice is half the cocktail, if not more!” As with things like Cointreau, lemon juice, or mixers, ice should be treated as an ingredient in and of itself.

Rae and Biolatto both agree that the choice of quality ingredients is crucial to making a good drink. Rae recalls a blind taste test in which she had to choose the best from six orange liqueurs. “I immediately picked Cointreau; it was clearly the best.” Poured over ice, the renowned triple sec takes on a uniquely velvety texture that reveals its full aromas. 

The bartender duo's favorite cocktails? Though Biolatto personally loves a good Side Car, the pair will never turn down an Old Fashioned or a Negroni. When served in a glass chilled down to between -13°C and -10°C, their cubes melt perfectly slowly and evenly, preserving their favorite drinks’ flavors. And that’s the magic of ice. 

the nice company orange ice spinning