How to Properly Use Ice in Cocktails

How to Properly Use Ice in Cocktails

Spirit Hub’s definitive guide on how to best use ice in cocktails and in your craft spirits

You’ve picked out the perfect craft spirits. There’s a fridge filled with freshly squeezed juices. The drinkware is spotless, and your cobbler shaker is shining like a diamond. 

It’s cocktail time.

All that’s left is the ice. How about one of those cloudy ice cubes that have been sitting in the tray for months? Wrong. 

So you’ll just swing by the grocery store and grab a big bag of ice from the freezer, right? Wrong again. 

There’s no sense treating yourself to an exceptional cocktail made with the best craft spirits and mixers money can buy if you’re not going to be equally particular about the ice in your cocktails too.

Cocktail making is an art. 

But when it comes to how the ice in cocktails affects the way it tastes, there’s plenty of science involved too. 

The Best Ice For Cocktails Depends Entirely On The Cocktail

When it comes to cocktails and craft spirits, ice comes in all shapes and sizes. 

Dilution delusions

There’s a misconception that dilution is a bad thing when it comes to cocktails. But that is simply not the case.

Dilution is all about control.

The right amount of water can actually open up certain craft spirits, releasing flavors and aromas that might otherwise stay hidden. 

Diluted ice can end up contributing to 15%-25% of a finished cocktail. So it’s important to get your ratios right. 

Not enough dilution, cocktails come out too strong. Too much, and the final product is watered down and overly mellowed.

For drinks with ice, fresh is best. 

If ice has been sitting out in the bucket for too long, you’ll almost certainly experience aggressive dilution from cubes that have already started melting.

Cloudy ice is also an issue. Cloudiness is a telltale sign of impurities and trapped oxygen. Oxygen causes the ice to melt quicker, releasing the impurities into your glass.

Whenever possible, keep ice in the freezer until just before using. 

The size and shape of the ice has a big effect on dilution as well. Knowing what type of ice to use when mixing your favorite drinks is critical.

Crushed, cubed or cracked? 

Terrific question. 

Follow the frosty rules in this definitive guide, and you’ll always know what type of ice is best for which cocktails. And whether or not you should get ice ball molds

Spoiler alert. You should. 

A Whiskey Bliss Cocktail By Fremont Mischief

Just the right amount of dilution helps make the perfect Whiskey Bliss cocktail by Fremont Mischief.

When to use standard ice cubes

Good ol’ reliable one-by-one inch ice cube. 

Most of us have a freezer filled with them right now. 

They’re great for both stirring and shaking. A handful of them work beautifully for most cocktails because their uniform size means they’ll melt consistently. 

A Southern Belle Cocktail By Willie’s Distillery

Standard ice cubes are the best ice cubes for cocktails like the Southern Belle by Willie's Distillery.

The trick is making sure your ice cubes don’t float. If ice cubes are floating, it means you’re not using enough of them. 

Remember, with cocktails, not enough dilution is just as bad as too much dilution. So be sure ice cubes sink to the bottom of your glass. That’s how you know you’re using the right amount. 

A warning about your freezer ice. 

Over time, it takes on ambient flavors from around the freezer. So, unless you enjoy notes of frozen burrito in your Irish Coffee, it’s best to change out the trays every two weeks.

Assuming the cubes have been made within the last two weeks, these little guys are great to have on hand, and are some of the best ice cubes for cocktails.

When to use large ice cubes

Fancy sphered ice from ice ball molds and larger two-by-two inch cubes are perfect for spirit-forward cocktails like an Old Fashioned.

These mini-glaciers add less water to the drink allowing temperature and dilution to remain consistent for longer periods of time. 

Perfect for people who are in no rush. 

Ice Ball Mold Ice Is Perfect For An Old Fashioned.

Use large ice cubes for craft cocktails like the Old Western by Boot Hill Distillery.

Large ice cubes are a great way to leisurely enjoy your favorite craft whiskey or rye on the rocks.. 

The large surface area means that the ice melts slower, adding just the right amount of water that allows the flavor profile to open up. You have a faucet, all you need is the tray.

But avoid using them when the recipe calls for stirring. They won’t melt quickly enough to properly chill your drink. 

When to use cracked or crushed ice for cocktails

Recipes for spirit-forward cocktails that call for sweet syrups or fresh juices benefit from being assembled using crushed or cracked ice. 

Drinks like these demand a particular measure of dilution.

The Tickled Pink Cocktail By Sukkah Hill Spirits

Crushed ice works wonders in cocktails like the Tickled Pink by Sukkah Hill Spirits.

Crushed ice gets watery faster than the cubed variety. So it provides cocktails like the mint julep or mojito with just the right amount of H2O, while keeping them consistently chilled.  

Making crushed ice at home is easy. 

Just dump a tray or two of ice cubes into a dish towel, wrap them up and bang away with a wooden mallet. Your kitchen’s meat tenderizer works well too!

Ice, the essential ingredient

Perfect levels of chill. The ideal degrees of dilution. An added aesthetic boost. Ice is the unsung hero of the craft cocktail.

It’s every bit as important to your end result as the craft spirits and mixers that go inside a drink, or the garnish that sits on top. 

Perfecting the use of ice in cocktails will take some time. You may not have an ice ball mold for your drink. And your freezer may not make uniform cubes.

So we’re here to help you with that. 

Spirit Hub has ice trays from Viski, Neptune’s ice ball molds for drinks, and bar tools you need to make perfect craft cocktails.

You read the guide.

Now it’s time to gather the supplies. 
Find everything you need to make delicious drinks with ice, just a couple clicks away.

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