Party Practitioners

Steve Cox Sculpts a Career in Party Ice

The national champion with a chainsaw specializes in cocktail ice, daring sculptures, and lots of luges.

By Philip Kiefer August 20, 2019 Published in the September 2019 issue of Seattle Met

Image: Taylor Castle

Steve Cox charges more than a dollar per ice cube. But that doesn’t sound so precious when you hear how they’re made. Each week, his company produces 300-pound blocks of ice in special freezers that swirl water as they work. Over three days, motion forces air and minerals to the surface and chlorine evaporates, leaving a block of ice so clear you could read a newspaper through it.

Much of it goes into high-end cocktails across the city. It’s functional, Cox says. Ultra-pure ice melts slowly because it’s not pitted with bubbles and won’t dilute the cocktail. “And it just looks beautiful.”

The rest goes into sculptures. Cox got into carving working at the Westin in the 1980s, when swans were the go-to. These days, it’s luges: utilitarian frat luges; branded luges for product launches; an oyster luge for Elliott's Oyster House’s New Year’s party. (Cox says he’s only once been on the receiving end of one of these frozen tracks that slide booze or mollusks into your gullet.)

But his favorites are the sculptures on the limits of possible, like an elephant with trunk curled upwards. Cox’s team won a 2013 World Ice Art Championship with a 25-ton statue of a dragon, wings outstretched, fighting a knight with a billowing cape. There are tricks for making wings and limbs seem more delicate than they are. “If a leg falls off and it knocks grandma out, that’s a problem,” Cox says. But when he gets the illusion right, “It literally mesmerizes people. The kid comes out in everybody when there’s that clear ice.”

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