No matter your level of expertise, cocktail ice is the one ingredient that home bartenders most often overlook. Sure, we all focus on our special liquors, mixers and garnishes, but cocktail ice performs more than one function; it chills, it dilutes, brings different flavors together and mellows an otherwise strong alcoholic base..
So if you want to up your home bartending game, dramatically improve your drinks and maybe even impress your friends, let me show you what I’ve learned about cocktail ice. By the time we’re done, you may be an ice expert (at least to your guests, anyway…)
Cocktail Ice Video Tutorial
To best understand the different types of ice, I uncovered this great video from Speakeasy Cocktails that offers a good explanation of cocktail ice. I’ll cover each type of ice in this post except the Double Old Fashioned, which the host hand cuts …. Frankly I don’t think hand cutting ice cubes at home makes a lot of sense …
Cocktail Ice and Its Many Forms
Believe it or not cocktail ice comes in many forms; however most don’t realize that most drinks call for a specific type. Whether intended for a particular type of glassware, a level of dilution or just appearance, cocktail ice is a critical component to any mixed drink.
For the contemporary home bartender, there are essentially three types: ice cubes, cracked ice and crushed ice. Let’s take a look at each.
The basic ice cube is perhaps the most common form of ice for the budding mixologist and the standard go-to for chilling cocktails. Easy to make, they can be made manually using ice trays or automatically using ice makers. Cubes generally melt slowly and provide the least amount of dilution.
Of course quick and easy is something that everyone can get behind, but should you choose to get advanced, there are several different types of ice cubes better suited to some drinks.
Best Uses: Cocktail Preparation, Shaking & Stirring.
Best Uses: Drink Requiring Minimal Dilution (e.g.Straight Liquor)
Best Uses: Collins drinks (duh…), Highball drinks (e.g Greyhound, Dark ‘n Stormy)
Special & Novelty Ice Cubes
Since ice can be formed into many different shapes, there are a number of special uses in which ice can be adapted. Here are just a couple:
Ice Rings for Punch
Best Uses: Punch Bowls
Novelty Ice Cubes
Best Uses: Themed Cocktails
Created simply by cracking cubes, cracked ice consists of many smaller pieces that chill beverages more quickly. However despite this benefit, its increase surface area will result in a greater amount of dilution. So you may need to experiment with using cracked ice to find the right balance between temperature and dilution.
Best Uses: Warm Weather Drinks, Drinks that Require Modest Dilution
Along the ice spectrum, crushed ice possesses the smallest pieces. Ideal for frozen drinks, crushed cocktail ice can range in size from large crystals reminiscent of a snow cone to the very fine crystals you might find in a Slurpee.
Here are a couple different types of commonly used crushed ice:
Best Uses: Warm Weather Drinks, Tiki Drinks, Drinks Requiring Modest Dilution
To give you a better taste about how we’ve made Julep Ice in the past, check out our post: How to Make a Mint Julep post.
Best Uses: Juleps, Smashes, Frozen Drinks, Drinks Requiring Maximum Dilution
So who would have ever thought that there are so many different types of cocktail ice?
Now that you have a basic understanding of the 3 different types of cocktail ice, keep it in mind when creating your next cocktail. You’ll be sure to improve your home bartending skills, not to mention craft a better cocktail.