ice water

My new refrigerator has an ice maker. After living in Paris for close to ten years, I’ve kind of gotten used to not having ice-on-demand. And when out and about, I’m now used to being served drinks with just one puny ice-cube bobbing sadly on the surface of a tepid drink. So now, when I go back to the states, I’m always a little overwhelmed by the oversized glasses filled to the brim with brisk, frosty, cracklin’ ice cubes. Because I’ve rounded the corner of converting to some of the European habits (although the 5hr cycle on my dishwasher still baffles me – what the heck is going on in there?) I sometimes have to slip into that “Can I have water with no ice, please?” mode, which pegs me squarely in the minds of American waitpeople as one of “those” customers.

But the glacial movement that’s spread across North America doesn’t seem to be reserved just for France; it seems that there is a European conspiracy against the chilly beasts. One I got used to no ice, I really stopped giving ice much thought. But when visitors come, they would always want me to ask the café waiter for some extra ice for their drinks. Then the glass of ice arrives, with a long spoon, which they shovel into their drinks, scraping the bottom of the glass so as not to miss one single drop of the still-cold water.

I’ve heard all sorts of reasons why ice isn’t used over here. My favorite was that if you drink something with ice in it, your stomach will freeze. Which might explain all us uptight Americans, who just are in need of having our stomachs defrosted. (Or maybe we just need to take more of those five-week vacations that the French get*, to sit in the sun and melt down those icicles in our tummies.)

I think it’s a cost and space issue. French cafés and restaurants don’t have a lot of space, and running an ice machine is undoubtably costly and certainly takes up valuable real estate in tight quarters. However as a reader pointed out a while back, “The only time you get a lot of ice in Paris is when you order a cocktail!” – presumably because les glaçons are cheaper than the liquor. Or maybe it’s because they know that the alcohol counteracts all that ice, so you don’t need to worry about your stomach freezing up.


A friend of mine who entertained a lot, who has sadly moved, had an ice machine in her apartment here in Paris. Romain got one whiff of ice over at her place and never went back. And ever since that first sip, he’s made sure there’s always a bac à glaçons or two in the freezer at all times. Similar to how my friend Bryan pointed out, that no one in France would ever dream of wearing anything so declassé as polar fleece trousers – until they try them on and feel how comfortable they are.

So now we sit around the house, in our polaire pants, drinking icy-cold beverages. And no, you don’t need to worry about me, because I assume all that polar fleece keeps our stomachs warm. However I’m a little concerned that the ice movement may start growing, once other people get a taste of the cool refreshment of it. For those who don’t have ice makers, which I would venture to be the other 99% of folks in Paris (…and for those who said I’d never amount to anything, who’s laughing now that I’m part of the coveted one-percent of something!?) – you can order ice to be delivered right to your front door.

But even though I’m part of the icy élite, ice isn’t just a luxury around here. Since I do a lot of cooking – and cooling, I often need a stockpile of cubes to chill down custards, ice marble countertops** for rolling pastry in the summer, and occasionally, as part of my job—or because of my job…) — I need to invent a cocktail***.

*Hey, I’m not knocking it. In fact, I’m waiting for mine to kick in.

**Never mind that I don’t have a marble countertop to ice down.

***Never mind that ‘inventing cocktails’ isn’t actually in my job description.


  • @Katherine Weaver
    ❰I am not a North American . . .
    I’m an American who’s lived on both sides of the pond. Just FYI, the proper term is “American” – not North American. We’re either southerners, northerners, or midwesterners, etc. based on which state we’re from. Though, all in all, the term “American” will always suffice.❱

    Katherine, Your post was funny, snappy but funny.

    If you are from Canada, the United States or Mexico, then yes, you are North American. Sorry, that’s a fact. However, there is no such thing as “American citizenship”. You’re a US citizen or you’re not. You’ve travelled to Europe, you’ve read what is written in your passport. “American” is not the proper term as all people from North and South America are Americans…

    Ice, anyone?

  • I found a used Magic Chef countertop ice machine at thrift village.
    It makes pellet ice-the best ice shape imho. I would also love to have an ice maker that
    made “ice balls” that is the second best shape, some would argue against that! Do they sell those in Europe? That might be an option instead of an ice maker in the frig itself.

  • I am a big ice fan too. In Japan and Korea there is a common aversion to chilled drinks by many….`stomach colds` (???) being a concern…go figure.

    For a post-ice experience I love frozen screw drivers. Open a big zip lock bag, dump in the best fresh or package orange juice you can find/afford, add however much vodka, zip it up and pop in the freezer compartment. When frozen (will be sloppy if more alcohol is used, firmer if less), spoon out some of the slush into glasses. Quick & simple & fffffrrrrrrreeeeezing. I recall Martha Stewart suggesting freezing coffee and using the frozen blocks in iced coffee: stops the iced coffee getting watered down. Better still (hic!) pour some nice creamy Baileys over the frozen coffee cubes in a glass, or use frozen coffee instead of ice cubes in a Brown Cow (Kahlua & milk). mmmm

  • I found the easiest way to get a lot of ice in Lyon was the poissonier (fishmonger). Mine gave me big bags of ice for free. He was weirded out the first time I asked, but after that he didn’t mind so much.

  • I tend to prefer drinks to be very hot or very cold, so I like ice. One caveat, though–ice cubes seem to make water that isn’t very good to begin with taste worse. It’s as if the cold seems to heighten the flavor. Has anyone else noticed that?

    • LOL my boyfriend once went to a fancy restaurant in Atlanta where they had a choice of pricy waters which came with tasting notes and all…but were served over icecubes made of clorinated tapwater. And the waiter was absolutely clueless when my boyfriend tried to explain that the icecubes ruined the taste of the bottled water

  • David, only you could make ice hysterical. As a North American (ok, let’s say New Yorker) living in Italy for 13 years, I am used to no ice…and no air conditioning… and listening to all of the reasons why you can practically die from drinking icy drinks while sitting in air conditioning. Love the visual of you in your fleecy pants drinking icy drinks!

    I just love your writing! Thank you for giving me a laugh.

  • I come from a Greek family (living in Australia) who always keeps iced-water in the fridge. Personally though, I prefer cool but not iced-water because I feel I can drink more of it and I don’t drink nearly enough water.

    In Australia I’ve noticed that some people have ice-making fridges and some don’t. Neither option or lack of is a big deal.

    Same in bars… some give you drinks with ice, others not. The only time I dislike ice in my drink is when I order a freshly squeezed OJ and it’s stacked with ice. I think the cafe is being stingy with their juice! I think others would agree.

    BTW, David, I marvel at the fact that you’ve made a blog entry about ice interesting.

    And I agree… where are those kitchen pics? Finished or not? Messy or not? I want to see them!!

  • Funny and informative post. Ice here in the tropics is a must, so it must be such a bummer to not have ice over my Coca-cola. But maybe that’s why they have flatter bellies? Just wondering. Take care of the ice maker!:D

  • Ha!! Reminds me of Bill Bryson’s take on the English and ice – as though it is only available on prescription!! I am married to an Englishman here in Australia, when I ask him for some ice in my drink I get a cube! Oh, and I love my fleecy trousers too – though I only really get to use them when I visit your hemisphere in winter.

  • Just for fun, not for controversy: square pillows are ergonomically illogical. You can’t easily get your head on the middle (fat part) of the pillow. And another thing: what’s up with these “traversins” (bolsters) ??!!

  • The ice thing is so American really. I always have to say ‘NO ice’ when I am in the States otherwise I get a big glass full of ice cubes and with literally no liquid in there?! WTH is up with that? you end up paying for a drink that has literally nothing to drink in it ?! Also how can you take nice big sips if the water is ice cold? no way, super unpleasant. Here they serve cold drinks, not ice cold drinks and I really prefer it that way.

    • Interestingly, some places in the US are adding a “no ice” surcharge to checks – presumably because if they leave out the ice, they give you more of the beverage!

  • Paris is wonderful. Rue de Buci at St: Germain is exciting with wonderful cafe and restaurants everywhere. Yes, ice only comes in cocktails, but, so what. Poilane was a treat. Trying to dicide if I should buy a lined banetton and a bread knife. Its a short walk from the hotel.

  • I am a United Statezien ( Does that work to divide up the continent?) I have been living in Australia though for 22 years and find that I don’t much miss ice except for that crushed/ flaked variety which I try to source when ever I visit the country. I would love to have an ice maker of that variety in my freezer.The one that came with the freezer we have never hooked up. We run the house on rainwater and I have no idea how we would have worked that plumbing out.

  • @lesoleilquidanse: you’re a genius. I don’t mind lack of ice when I’m drinking water, but the lack is sorry missed when I’m in cocktail-making-mode. And I’d much rather stick the white wine in a bucket of cubes than in the freezer…

  • In Italy there are a few commonly accepted facts (note: agreement in Italy is exceptionally rare, so pay attention):
    1) ALWAYS wear a scarf around your neck. If I need to explain why, then you are probably too far gone. Open windows and drafts will kill you.

    2) Too much ice in a drink on a hot day will kill you. Every year there are newspaper articles warning us against the use of ice and citing emergency hospital admittances. I do not kid, or exaggerate. Water is meant to be drunk at an ambient temperature, so at all times, a proper host has acqua naturale and acqua gassata at both ambiente and fresca temperatures.

    We have now covered the two areas where all Italians agree.

    Mystery of life: those little plastic bags with bubbles in them that are meant to be disposable ice cube trays. How the hell are you supposed to get the ice out?

  • I grew up in Mexico City and experienced the same aversion to drafts that you mention. In Mexico we call a draft a chiflón. My aunt would immediately close windows if there was a draft of air, warning that you could easily catch pneumonia that way. She would also warn us as children not to cross our eyes on purpose, because if a draft of air hit your face you would stay cross eyed permanently!

  • Attn: Stu Borken – I have a bread knife purchased at Poilane. I LOVE it and it brings back great memories of my visits there every time I use it as well as allowing me to create almost translucent slices of my favorite breads.

  • In Eastern Europe the fear of drafts and chills translates into the lack of ice in anything. The worst things can happen to you if you sit someplace drafty. Eating something cold is bound to kill you. The older generation ascribes particularly strongly to this line of thought. So, tepid drinks in Paris don’t seem particularly strange to me. At least, if you do ask for ice, several random strangers will not start lecturing you on the dangers of such behavior.

  • David, it’s so funny that you commented about how bad the air gets due to no ventilation or the fear of ventilation on the metros and buses here in Paris. This is one of the main reasons why this summer I’m buying a bike to avoid all that malicious funk that rises on the metro in the summer here in Paris. I’d rather smell polluted air from cars than some wheezing man’s mildewy (this is why they need dryers in France) outfit…oh my god, the thought of being hit with bodacious B.O. ….. LOL!

  • Guess I’ll add my two cents to the pot:

    For those saying that lots of ice is a way for restaurants to cut cost (because they’re serving less liquid), I have to disagree. Most restaurants in the US offer FREE refills for most soft drinks. If they don’t have a soda machine, you often get soda in a can or bottle AND a glass of ice. Actually, you never ever pay for water in a restaurant in the US except if you want some of that fancy bottled water. That’s the one thing I often miss when traveling abroad – a glass of water, ice or no ice, just a simple small glass of water. I’d be really happy when waiters just bring it to the table without me pleading for it. I’ve only been to a handful of restaurants that don’t offer free refills. If they really wanted to cut costs, restaurants should stop offering free water. I was once at a restaurant that had a nicely worded notice in the menu that if you wanted water, you would have to ask. It was part of an effort to conserve water since the area (Sacramento) was in an extreme drought.
    I’m an ice-lovin’ American and there’s nothing as good as a cold, watered-down Coke on a hot day. I’ve even converted my husband to watered-down Coke. Warm soda is just disgusting. The only time I ask for water without ice is on airplanes, which are already so cold that I don’t see the need to add ice to my water.

  • @Isabelle Brown …. I like you!

  • Huzzah for the ice maker!

    In Florida it is very hot and very humid. The humidity prevents you from cooling off like places that are hot and dry so the ice sure helps! You drink your Coke and then as the ice melts you drink the cold water! Two drinks for the price of one (unless you get free refills.)

    When I worked at Sea World in Florida as a teenager I remember that Germans would ask for “Sh-prite no ice” (Sprite) and the English would ask for unhomogenized milk!

  • After travelling and having friends that are European, and seeing their friends come to visit I always assumed it was an economical thing. Like with soda, free refills seem to be a hugely American thing – The only place in Paris I found with free refills was the TGI Fridays (since closed) and they didn’t do them on bank holidays, strangely…

    So I just figured that when my European friends would come out with us in the states and ask for no ice they were just assuming that they were paying per drink and wanted the most drink possible. Americans don’t really seem to care if you have a glass full of ice because if you’re at a chain restaurant they’ll probably refill it 20x before you leave, anyhow. No idea that there’s actually health superstitions about it!

  • i’m a little down on ice, it makes my teeth hurt. that’s not a great, classy excuse, but it’s always kind of a relief to me to travel to europe and not have to request no ice (i’m one of those!)

  • My mother, who is Thai, once told me that I would get pregnant from drinking things with too much ice. She swore up and down that a Bangkok doctor told her so. I was 23 at the time.

  • David, an article about “ice”??? You really are in the 1% (or less) – of those that can make an article both hilarious and informative about anything – and incite heated discussion about cultural differences and expectations. Love it! Best wishes.

  • mahlookma: Ice can do that? Yikes… Oddly, someone in Greece told me the doctor told her to iron her undergarments for some reason.

    BelleD: What drives me batty in the US is when people in restaurants race around, topping up your water glass. I wish they’d wait until I finished the one I had – it seems so wasteful, of water and their energy. (But on the other hand, I keep reading restaurant reviews that criticize when service people don’t keep water glasses full, which seems kind of odd…)

    In France, by law, restaurants and cafés have to give you (tap) water if you ask for it. If you order coffee, it’s not unusual to be served a small glass of water with it.

    Interestingly, there is also a law in France that even if you are not a customer, you can go into a café and stand at the bar, and ask for a glass of water – unless there is a sign specifically stating that they don’t do that, or that there is a charge for it. I’ve only seen a sign like that once. (Water was 10 centimes.)

    Felicia: Riding a bike is a great way to get around Paris and I rarely take the stuffy métro because riding a bike is so much more pleasant. Do be careful; I was hit by a taxicab recently. I’ve been looking for a bike helmet, but there aren’t all that many to choose from in Paris. And unfortunately, most are pretty ugly. But it’s a good idea to wear one.

    Judith: I often wonder why drafts are so bad for you, but come springtime, everyone flocks to the outdoor cafés in search of fresh air and sunlight. Why not let some of that fresh air in? I was in an antique store in Paris one summer, where it was stifling hot and the door was closed. I asked the proprietor why the door was closed, and he said, “I don’t want to let the hot air in.”

    I wanted to say, “Dude, the hot air is already in.” But I didn’t.

  • This post had me laughing out loud. In Italy it is the same, no ice except when ordering cocktails… the truth is, now that I have gotten used to it I am no longer a fan of ice either, especially in large quantities, because it really waters down drinks and makes it harder to sip your drink. That being said, it really drives me nuts when they bring luke warm drinks (coke, water, beer, white wine anyone?) to the table. I can live without the ice, but I need certain drinks to be really cold.

  • During summer, I’m trying to keep windows and shutter closed and opening everything as soon as the outside temperature is lower than the inside one. I think most french people are doing the same thing and open their windows after 9pm in hot summer…
    Living in New-york area, I was so shocked when I realize our rented house didn’t have real shutter and I had basically no way to block the sun (but turning AC on).

    I love Ice in my drinks but I hated buying a drink with more ice than Coffee or Coke…

  • Sorry to hear that you were hit but glad that you’re ok. I was just thinking about how cool everyone looks without a helmet but how horrible it would be to be in accident and suffer a concussion or worse. I have a curly afro but I’ll gladly have “helmet head” instead of a busted head any day. Thank you for reinforcing the importance of wearing a helmet. I’ll look for one in London or order one online from the States.

  • Lovely you enjoy your fridge offering ice cubes. I still make them the old style way, putting water into the freezer.

  • On a related but kind of sideways note, back in the day tap water (and therefore ice made from it) in Europe was considered dubious and British travellers in Europe in the 70s had essentially the same advice and attitude to it as you now get when travelling in Africa and Asia – all the stuff about not drinking the water or eating ice cubes or you’re sure to fall prey to dysentery.

  • As someone who lives in the Sud with a dorm-sized refrigerator whose freezer insists on frosting over solid once a week, I AM SO JEALOUS.

  • The part of this post that made me laugh the hardest was about your washing machine. As an American living in Holland I agree…what the heck IS going on in there? Thanks for this great post.

  • I just wanted to add that when I worked in a restaurant in New York (it was French!) my boss told me that it actually costs more to give people ice in their drinks than to just give them a full glass of the beverage with no ice. Ice makers are expensive and take a lot of electricity to run, especially in a hot kitchen, so I can understand this. So, in fact, it’s not the restaurant being “cheap”. And as another commenter said, the majority of restaurants in the States are happy to refill your soft drink at no cost.

  • I looooooooooooooooooooooove this post. I’ve also recently quit my ice habit and am now visiting the US and find myself wishing my restaurant tap water was just room temperature. A while back however, in Zurich, I ordered a coke on a steamy day. I was feeling a bit nostalgic and nicely requested “a lot of ice….to the top of the glass alot”, to which the waitress replied “wow, that is so American”…,Sometimes ice just hits the spot. Now if only I can find a place with fountain soda in Paris for those homesick days.

  • @ Alyce Morgan, I don’t know where you got the idea that Fisher & Paykel is a German brand of appliance. They’re from New Zealand – about as far, geographically, as you can go from Germany.
    The dishdrawer (I have one) spends quite a long time with just the fan on at the end to dry things. It’s quicker if you use the “eco” cycle, although not much. The “fast” cycle is good enough for lightly soiled dishes, and it’s only 45 minutes. It also heats its own water rather than using water from the hot tap, this takes a little time too.

  • David, I reason the other way around: Why do Americans put ice in their drinks? To my knowledge – and from the places I’ve lived and visited – this is a truly (US-)American habit.
    Personally, I think it is a waste of energy in two ways and the desired coolness from drinking an iced drink is more than short lived, the end result actually being a rise in body temp. Why not just drink from a cold tap or get a drink from the fridge? I’ve heard the body has to bring the ice or cold beverage to body temp, which in fact causes a rise in body temp. Makes sense to me.
    A iced cocktail is nothing to sneeze at though ;-)
    Cheers, Adrian

  • Yes, yes and yes. Being Brazilian and living in Italy I have always commented how difficult it is to have ice in restaurants here.
    You ask once, and the waiter answers:”The beverage is fresh!”, and I replicate:”Yes, but I’d like to add ice!”.
    Well, 80% of the times the waiter doesn’t consider your request anymore. For 18% he will try to make you forget and you will have to ask again and…the 2% will promptly bring you ice cubes.
    …different cultures…

  • I have never liked iced drinks (too cold). The exception is the rare moment when I drink a Coke. Then I want ice in it because I adore Coke foam that forms when the Coke hits the ice. And, yes, that Coke has all of the sugar and all of the caffeine in it and is only to be drunk on a very hot day. And I am an American (North).

  • How Long Does Ice Cream Last?

    (Sorry – this isn’t the place for this comment but there doesn’t seem to an option to add a comment there)

    Can you clarify that the 2-4 months policy by the FDA is for home made ice cream as well as the bought stuff? The latter is full of preservatives and stabilisers whereas, as you know, the former has real fresh eggs…

    Thanks, love the site :-)

  • No ice in Germany either, definitely bad for the stomach. Although when I ask how/why there is no scientific, medical or health evidence to prove it, so I think it is a wive’s tale that has perpetuated so widely it is now simply fact. I no longer put ice in water or any other drinks unless it is of course a G&T.

  • In the U.S. in the late 19th century and early 20th century, refrigeration became synonymous with modernity. Home refrigerators with freezers profoundly changed people’s relationships with food. This is when Coca-Cola debuted (1880s) and also when the ice cream soda shop developed (early 1900s). So for U.S. citizens to show they were hip and “with it,” cold drinks and cold desserts became the rage. Add to this the fact that many parts of the U.S. are much hotter and way more humid than Europe during the summer, so that an icy-cold drink is considered a true relief.

    Thus, a frosty Coke brimming with ice cubes resonates with deep cultural significance for many U.S. residents. (Pour moi, not so much.)