Why the Size & Shape of Cocktail Ice Matters

perfect-cubes-ice

 

Craft cocktails have taken over, and they’re here to stay.  All throughout the United States, new trendy drinks are claiming clever names along with high prices – ranging from $15- $20 a drink in some cities.  

Concurrent with the upward trend of craft cocktails, the movement for superior ice in these drinks is becoming a necessity for any bar that claims to make these tasty works of art.  Obviously ice is needed for many cocktails, but does the shape and size of the ice really hold such a strong impact on the outcome of the drink? The answer is yes – bolded and underlined.

Better ice equals better drinks.  We chatted with master bartender Tony Rials, who is a firm believer in the importance of ice. “There is a growing increase in concern for the quality of ice all across the board,” he says. Bars are no longer using simple ice machines that produce small pellets of ice, but they’re investing in better ice makers or upgrading their cube trays to get the clearest and highest quality ice for their drinks.  We take it a step further by carving our own ice.  The quality of the ice itself is superb and provides for a visually stunning piece of the cocktail.”

Ice influences two crucial components: temperature and the influx of water – otherwise known as dilution.  While a well-maintained temperature is desirable, no one wants a watered down cocktail.  For most drinks, the “melt rate” battle can present an issue.  This refers to the speed at which the ice melts over the course of drinking a cocktail. Feeble traditional ice cubes will dilute a drink faster because more cubes equals more surface area through which the ice can absorb the heat, thus quickening the melt rate. That’s just simple math, folks.  

Perfect Cubes

Applying this knowledge of surface area, it makes perfect sense that the size and form of the piece of ice directly affects how your drink starts and finishes over time.  Depending on the cocktail and the ingredients in it, a larger piece of ice is usually a better choice, with the exception of some tropical cocktails.

Mixologists and bartenders alike are steering towards using one large ice cube or sphere to create a better drinking experience that remains true to form from start to finish.  And lets be real, these big ice chunks make a bolder statement than a bunch of small dingy ice cubes.  Part of the cocktail movement is about not only enjoying the taste of a cocktail, but also appreciating its aesthetics.  There’s a reason this craft cocktail ice is trendy.

In order to try out some of these cocktails at home, take a closer look at the different types of ice and their varying purposes to better understand when to use them.  To make this job easier for you, we ice enthusiasts at Behind the Bar have created a mini-guide to help you decide what to use in your next cocktail.

1.  King Cube or Sphere 

king cube ice

Cubes and spheres are what you’ll typically find in most cocktail bars these days. Perfect for constantly cold temperatures and less dilution, in either spherical or cubical form, this form of ice is great for a high-end spirit or a cocktail in a rocks glass. 

2. Perfect Cubes 

Perfect-ice-cubes

These cubes can be shaken or stirred to create a great drink.  As opposed to regular ice cubes that are thinner and melt faster, the cubes stack nicely in the glassware and won’t melt as fast.

3. Cylinder

cylinder-ice-form

Offering a pretty piece of ice ideal for a taller glass (like a Collins or Highball) to show off its height and form, this larger chunk of ice works well with drinks that do not require much dilution.  

4. Crushed Ice

crushed-ice

Perfect for tiki drinks, Juleps, and the always tasty Mojito, crushed ice can be made two ways. The more strenuous method is to put freezer ice into a bag and whack at it with a mallet or a muddler until it is crushed to your liking.  The easier way is to use a machine like the Ice Crusher and save yourself the physical labor and time.  

Whatever ice mold you chose, remember that any one of these is sure to be better for your cocktail. Stop ruining good liquor with bad ice and step up your craft cocktail ice game.  Check out our full variety of ice molds to find the perfect fit for you and your drink! 

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7 Comments

  • Tom D July 14, 2015 @ 6:18pm

    How do you make the ice clear? I have tried many different molds and each time the ice was an unsavory cloudy product.

    • Caleb Houseknecht July 15, 2015 @ 2:09pm

      Hey Tom,

      This is a common issue people face. We suggest following the two tips below. Let us know if they work for you!

      1.) Use filtered water
      2.) Boil the water, let it cool, then fill the mold(s) or tray(s).

      • Greg July 16, 2015 @ 4:10pm

        i use water from a zero water filter to get it clear

  • Edmund Hillary July 15, 2015 @ 12:59pm

    What about ice clarity? Is that a concern?

    • Caleb Houseknecht July 15, 2015 @ 2:08pm

      Hey Edmund,

      Yes, clarity is important, at least in terms of presentation. In order to get clear ice, there are a couple of things you can do…

      1.) Use filtered water
      2.) Boil the water, let it cool, then fill the mold(s) or tray(s).

  • Rick Neighbors July 8, 2016 @ 1:12pm

    You failed to mention that a good professional ice machine freezes the ice harder than your typical home refrigerator ice maker…….clear ice versus white ice.
    However, when you price the good quality ice machines, you may decide to just drink faster! 😉
    I bought a used Marvel under counter ice maker and saved a bunch of money. This ice maker typically sells for over $2,000. Shop around! But parts are readily available for the good quality units, so used can be an option.

    • Caitlin Hartney July 8, 2016 @ 2:22pm

      Good point! Thanks, Rick.

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