The Chilling Truth: The Importance of Ice in Cocktails

The Chilling Truth: The Importance of Ice in Cocktails

Ice is an often overlooked component in cocktail making, but it’s part of the holy trinity with good glassware and the right garnish, giving it a vital role in the overall drinking experience. Just as the right glassware and a well-paired garnish enhances the visual and aromatic aspects of your cocktails, the type and quality of ice you use can significantly impact the taste, temperature, and dilution of your drink. Three different types of ice can elevate the drinks you make at home:

1. Cubed Ice: The versatile workhorse

Why It Matters: Cubed ice is the most common type of ice used in cocktails, and for good reason. It's versatile, readily available, and ideal for drinks that require controlled dilution, such as stirring or shaking cocktails. Cubes also maintain their shape for a longer time, ensuring that your drink doesn't become overly diluted too quickly.

Examples of Cocktails:

Whiskey Highball

Old Fashioned

Negroni

Mai Tai

2. Crushed Ice: Texture and dilution

Why It Matters: Crushed ice is a game-changer for cocktails that rely on quick chilling and a slushy texture. It provides rapid cooling and can be used to add a frosty, refreshing quality to your drinks. The increased surface area of crushed ice also enhances the dilution process, making it ideal for cocktails that benefit from a slight watering down. You can buy a small hand ice crusher easily on-line but the old fashioned way is to place your cubes inside a plastic bag, then wrap a tea towel around this and either smash the bag onto a hard worksurface or using a rolling pin, bash the ice until it in is nicely crushed. This can be kept in the freezer for when it is needed.

Examples of Cocktails:

Mint Julep

Tiki Cocktails (e.g. Mai Tai)

Classic Daiquiri

3. Spherical or large Ice: Minimising dilution

Why It Matters: Spherical or very large ice cubes, often used in whiskey glasses, provides an elegant and functional touch to your cocktails. Their large size means slower melting, which reduces dilution and maintains the drink's flavour profile for longer. Taking up most of the space in your rocks glass, the snug fit also makes the drink look great.

Examples of Cocktails:

Any neat spirit

Classic cocktails (e.g. Negroni, Old Fashioned)

A note on clear ice:

Perfectly clear ice, prized for its aesthetic appeal, will quickly make your cocktail look like it was professionally made but is fiendishly difficult to create at home without specialist equipment. For those wanting to embark on the journey of directional freezing, to create homemade clear ice, you can find out how here: Clear Ice, courtesy of the industry’s ice guru, Camper English. For those looking for equipment to make clear ice at home, we think Wintersmiths has perhaps the best solution. Alternatively, in the UK there is a brand available in supermarkets called Polar Cubes, which are large and clear.

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