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Ice: Secret To Great Cocktails

by Yajush Sharma
Ice seems pretty simple - it ensures your cocktail will be cold, right? Well, sort of. The type of ice not only keeps your favorite drink cool and refreshing but also, it helps keep the sipping experience on the right track. Some drinks require slower melting ice, smaller ice, more/less ice, and sometimes no ice at all. Also interesting - did you know there was a time when ice wasn’t a common ingredient that you could easily get? We’re here to help loop you in on all the essential knowledge.

Quick History Lesson

Ice used to be a luxurious component before the 19th Century and was reserved for preserving food items. Thanks to a Boston businessman, Frederic Tudor, we now get to enjoy our scintillating cocktails and whiskey on the rocks. The gentleman made ice from freshwater ponds, and started distributing it to nearby bars and later to Europe. Thanks to the Boston ice king, we now have a variety of cocktails with so many shapes and sizes of ice.

The Melt-Down on Ice There are different shapes and sizes of ice that blend with your drink to help make it more enjoyable. Mixed, stirred, on the rocks, crushed, etc - there are multiple rules for using ice with drinks that’ll make you appreciate your bartender a little more the next time you order.

Ice with greater surface area (one big round or square cube) dilutes your drink more slowly compared to smaller ones. This is great for a more expensive pour (i.e. bourbon, whiskey, etc.) to avoid diluting quality. Fun fact: Ice balls are a discovery of Japanese alcohol lovers referred to as ‘Ice Ball Whiskey’.

  • Cocktails stirred with ice gives a good balance of chilling your drink while also not over-diluting.
  • Shaken with ice is great for most cocktails. This helps blast-chill your cocktail, mellow out the strong liquor taste and, overall, create a unified flavor profile.

  • Hand-cut ice is usually clear and specially ordered. It can be carefully chipped away at without completely shattering and is usually only seen at speakeasy bars.
  • Standard refrigerated/cloudy ice melts faster than clear ice but good for at-home drink-making.
  • Shattered, crushed, or small pebbled ice is not only aesthetically pleasing but also creates a slower sip. This is good for stronger or more sugary cocktails like a julep that embrace all stages of dilution: strong to watered down.
  • Cracked ice is the best companion for refreshing margaritas or martinis. It is usually seen at steakhouses served in ‘up’ style. Best of all, it creates an elevated experience when a piece sneaks its way into your sipping!

How To Make Specialty Ice At Home?

We know that you can't always buy these types of ice from your local store so here are a few ways to create the experience at home:

  • Freeze either bottled water or boiled tap water - this will produce clearer ice.
  • Smash ice in a plastic bag to make crushed ice (be sure plastic is sturdy enough for this.)
  • Lastly, blend your ice in a blender for shaved ice.

**Note not to store ice near food in the freezer or you may alter the taste. For our hosting kings and queens, a bonus fun fact - did you know that there are specific ice-making machines for public purchase? For example, Kold Draft machines produce ice (1 inch) clear ice cubes which dilute drinks by 60%. Shop to discover more about this niche market and find your new show stopper.
Let us know if you have more tips to make the perfect cocktail at home, cheers!

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