Eat & Drink

The Koutetsu

Why hand-cut ice cubes make a difference

For those familiar with Hunter Street speakeasy, The Koutetsu you’ll be across its dark moody tones, exceptional service and extensive range of Australian Gins and Japanese Whiskeys. 

Named in the Top 12 best gin bars in Australia by Bartender Magazine Australian Bar Awards in September 2022, there’s no surprises The Koutetsu is getting the attention it so rightly deserves. 

the koutetsu hunter street newcastle nsw
Owner of The Koutetsu - Chris (Wilso) Wilson

For The Koutetsu owner, Chris (Wilso) Wilson it’s all about the level of effort that goes into each element of a drink and their focus on the finer details. It’s this effort that sees Chris, twice a week undertake the task of hand-cutting his own ice blocks for your enjoyment...

Meeting with Chris at 9:30am on a Wednesday morning, service isn’t until 6:00pm that evening, Chris chats us through the process of cutting ice and why it’s so important to The Koutetsu experience,

“For us it’s that extra touch and effort, it’s another one-percenter with your cocktail.”

the koutetsu hunter street newcastle

”Hand-cut perfectly clear ice makes a drink look more elegant, and using block ice also helps improve the drinking experience as it melts slower, which reduces dilution and keeps your drink tasting better for longer.”

The labour intensive and time consuming process starts with a large, slightly defrosted cube of ice. Inside a layer of water swishes around which Chris explains needs to be removed as it contains the minerals that cloud the ice. 

the koutetsu hunter street newcastle

With a couple hits using a mallet and ice pic the water gushes out leaving a crystal clear, slightly less cube-like piece of ice. Working with a saw, Chris then begins the block cutting process,

“Once I’ve removed the water I cut the cube down into panels, then down into individual blocks, which is the slowest part of the process and ends results in around 25 blocks.”

the koutetsu hunter street newcastle

Chris goes onto explain that whilst there is nothing wrong with cloudy ice, it’s their preference to go this effort, 

“I’ve tried hundreds of different ways, yet the only way to get really good clear blocks is the time and effort it takes to do it. It’s obviously quite fucking time consuming but if you want the difference you got to put the work into it.”

the koutetsu hunter street newcastle

The final touch being The Koutetsu stamp etched into each block.

the koutetsu hunter street newcastle

Whether it’s a gin and tonic or an intricately made cocktail Chris breaks it down a little further,

“If someone orders a Negroni it’s often the case that it’s made perfect in the tasting glass, we like to serve what we call it a bit fat, we call it a bit fat, which means they're under stirred and your first couple of sips are quite stiff. The middle section of your drink is absolutely perfect and the last sip or so is only a fraction watered down.”

“If you present it perfectly, at its peak optimal taste, it’s got nowhere to go and it’s only downhill from there. Everything following those initial sips are going to be below quality, the big ice cubes help in that process, it doesn’t do as much work in the drink”.

“It’s a lot of effort but we wouldn’t do it any other way.”