When it comes to crafting a truly excellent cocktail, one often overlooked but crucial element is ice. Ice not only chills your drink but also plays a vital role in presentation and creating a balanced flavor profile—most cocktail recipes assume a level of dilution that’s built into the drink, and ice provides just the right amount of dilution to bring out the flavors of your spirits. On the other hand, bad ice can ruin an otherwise beautifully executed cocktail, bringing unwanted freezer flavors into the mix. Consider the ice you use when shaking, stirring, and serving, and your drinks will shine.
Great ice starts with clean water. Use drinking water for your ice, and make sure whatever ice tray or ice mold you use is clean—ice has a tendency to soak up surrounding flavors, which can make for an unpleasant cocktail experience. This is also a good reason to make fresh ice if you’re planning on making cocktails, since ice that’s been sitting in the back of your freezer for weeks can take on lingering smells that will ruin your Martini.
Ice for Shaking and Stirring
The shape of the ice you use in your cocktail shaker or mixing glass doesn’t matter as much as the freshness and quantity. The more ice you use, the more quickly it chills your drink and the less the ice melts and dilutes the beverage, so as a general rule fill your shaker or glass completely. While some dilution improves the flavor, too much can make for watery, weak cocktails.
Ice for Serving
Putting extra thought into choosing your ice elevates your drink and enhances the sipping experience. The ice you use in the glass serves multiple purposes: To keep your chilled drink chilled if you’ve already shaken or stirred the cocktail, chill a drink that’s made in the glass like an Old Fashioned, add a textural element with crushed ice, and enhance the presentation. Size, shape, texture, and visual appeal are all factors that can make a huge impact on your cocktail.