Recipes

The Sea Cubed: How a San Diego Bartender Captured the Pacific in a Drink

Cocktail with seaweed ice cube.
The Sea Cubed cocktail brings a special sort of terroir, using sea salt and seaweed in a drink served at George's at the Cove, next to San Diego's renowned beachfront. All photos by Jim Sullivan.

The aptly named George’s at The Cove in San Diego overlooks the La Jolla cove, where the Pacific Ocean crashes into the stunning sandstone bluffs and breezes blow off of the waves and onto the restaurant’s picturesque terrace. The views are inspiring not just for the patrons drinking and dining here, but also for the staff. Bartender Stephen Kurpinsky wanted to bring this sense of place to the cocktails he crafts. “[We’re] just a stone’s throw away from the cove itself,” says Kurpinsky, “with its majestic views, tide pools and aquatic life, I found that there must be a way to convey this image in a glass.” He sought a way to do so without over-the-top beach kitsch or clunky garnishes, and he arrived at making “sea cubes.”

A man looking at the ocean. Bartender Stephen Kurpinsky seeks inspiration from his surroundings.

A man's hand holding seaweed. Looking to attribute both salinity and a sense of place to cocktails, Kurpinsky was inspired to freeze seaweed (provided prepackaged by his local produce supplier) into ice cubes.

Kurpinsky began experimenting with making salt water and freezing local seaweed into it to form cubes that could attribute the kind of salinity a margarita receives from a salted rim, with a more compelling visual component. “I worked long and hard to get the salinity ratio correct so it would impart salt into the cocktail as it melted, but wouldn’t be overly salty too quickly,” he says. “Playing with different salts and ratios, I oddly ended up with something that was not far off from sea water, just a little less salty, but featured sea salt and suspended seaweed for a visually striking garnish.” He uses the cubes in Sea Cubed, a cocktail he created as a riff on a traditional margarita.

To make the Sea Cubed cocktail requires prepping both the sea cube and infused tequila, both of which pay off with worthwhile, subtle and complex flavors.

Boiling water on a hot plate.

Salt being added to water.

An ice tray.

Seaweed.

Seaweed in an ice tray.

Lime peels, dried mango and dried chilis.

Infusing tequila.

Pouring into a jigger.

A man shaking a cocktail.

A man straining a cocktail.

Cocktail with seaweed ice cube.

To make sea cubes:

Boil water in a stainless saucepan to eliminate excess air bubbles. Add 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt to each compartment of a 2 inch cube ice tray. Add in boiled water. Allow water to cool. Add in seaweed (George's uses a dehydrated seaweed salad that we can purchase through our local produce distributer, then rehydrate with cold water). Freeze cubes. Keep the cubes in the coldest part of your freezer, covered, so freezer odors are held at bay.

To make mango, lime and chile-infused tequila:

Ingredients:

  • 1 mango (peeled and roughly cut)
  • Peels of 2 limes
  • 2 ancho chiles (cut in half lengthwise)
  • 1 750 mL bottle Cimarrón Blanco tequila

Dehydrate mango and lime peels in a dehydrator. Combine dried mango, lime peels and ancho chilis in a clean mason jar. Fill the mason jar to the top with Cimmaron Blanco tequila. Allow to sit and infuse in a cool, dry place for 48 hours. Strain and store for future use.

To make a Sea Cubed cocktail:

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces mango, lime and chile-infused Cimarrón Blanco
  • 1.5 ounces fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce agave syrup (1:1)
  • 1 sea cube

Combine infused tequila, lime juice and agave syrup in a shaker with ice. Strain over one sea cube and serve.

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