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Feb 29, 2024

Keeping Your Cool: How To Use Ice Effectively In Cocktails

If you undertake a mixology degree, you will soon realise that ice is a key component of the cocktail that can influence the flavour, appearance and strength.
Written by THE ART OF SHAKING

Last update: Mar 04, 2024 -

2 min read

Index

The art of cocktail making is not just about knowing your way around spirits, liqueurs and mixers. There’s so much more to it, from learning how to present a drink professionally and understanding how different ingredients work together. One of the most overlooked aspects of making cocktails is using ice correctly.

If you undertake a mixology degree, you will soon realise that ice is not just an afterthought but a key component of the cocktail that can influence the flavour, appearance, strength and texture of the drink, as well as of course the temperature. Here is some information that will stop you slipping up and get your ice just nice.

Different types of ice

The first step is to learn about the different types of ice and what the purpose of each type is. 

Cube ice

Cubed ice is the standard format that most people will have in their freezer tray, or is available to buy in bags from the supermarket. They are typically about 1 x 1 inch in size. This type of ice is used in cocktail shakers to chill and dilute the drink. 

Be sure to use freshly frozen cubes each time, because ice that has been hanging around in your freezer for too long will absorb the flavours of the foods stored alongside it. Always use filtered water for a better flavour, rather than tap water because it can have a strong chemical taste. 

Ensure that the ice is dry rather than wet to touch, because wet ice has already started to thaw and will dilute your drink too much. Always discard the ice from the shaker after one use to ensure it is the right temperature and is not contaminated with other flavours, and use fresh ice to place in the glass. 

When serving a drink with ice, always put the ice in first and add the liquid over it. Fill the glass with enough ice for it to stay at the bottom of the glass rather than float to the surface. 

Large cubes

Larger cubes are around 2 x 2 inches in diameter and are used when you want them to melt more slowly in the cocktail. This keeps the drink chilled for longer and prevents it from becoming too diluted. They are usually used in drinks served in lowball glasses, such as whisky-based cocktails. Large ice cubes add to the visual presentation of the drink.

Crushed ice

Crushed or cracked ice is usually required for cocktails that contain a high volume of fresh juice or sweet syrups. This form of ice melts more quickly, diluting the sweeter flavours that could otherwise be overpowering. To make crushed ice, wrap up a batch of cubes in a towel and bash it with a blunt object. 

Custom shapes

Ice can also be served in custom shapes such as balls, spheres, or even decorative motifs such as flowers and fruit. These add visual flair and will melt more slowly; perfect for drinks with fine quality ingredients that you want to sip slowly.

Crushed ice is usually served in drinks such as the mint julep and the frozen daiquiri. 

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