Ice, ice, baby. When it comes to chilling your favorite drink, what’s the best method? Should you use ice? What shape of ice? Should you use an ice substitute like whiskey stainless steel spheres? Is diluting your drink as bad as it sounds?
Here’s everything you need to know about ice, dilution, cocktails, and what ice works best with your favorite beverage—alcoholic or not.
When dilution is good and when it's not
Before we get into all the different ice types, let’s talk about dilution. Dilution often has a bad reputation. Watering down drinks doesn’t sound like a good thing, does it?
But dilution in cocktail-making is an art, not a scam. A good cocktail will have a 15% to 25% dilution rate and ice cubes or chilling methods that match the cocktail’s dilution needs.
Ice chills the drink to the right temperature and, as it melts, adds balance. How much balance your drink needs depends on your taste and the beverage you’re making.
As a general rule:
- To make more diluted drinks, use room temperature ingredients, and/or smaller ice cubes.
- To make less diluted drinks, use chilled ingredients and large ice cubes.
- To make non-diluted drinks, use chilled ingredients or stainless steel spheres.
The ice you use in your cocktail matters.
As we noted before, adding ice to your drink isn’t necessarily bad.
Plus, ice can add to your drink’s presentation.
The shaved ice in a mint julep, the round cube in a shot of whisky, and the square ice in a Manhattan add to the sophistication of the drink.
But not all ice is created equal. Freezer ice, tap water creations, and other ice varieties can dull the clarity of your drink. Plus, using the wrong shaped ice for your beverage can ruin the flavors of your cocktail.
Ice isn’t necessarily the enemy. But the wrong ice is.
Cubed, cloudy, and stainless steel ice: which is best?
There are a lot of different ice choices in the cocktail world. Here are the ones you’ll come across most often and what beverages they work best for.
The almost snowy pieces of ice melt quickly in your drink but add an undeniable texture and look to certain cocktails. It’s best for slushie-like cocktails like Mint Juleps, Frozen Daiquiris, and other beverages.
When making cocktails at home, it’s easy to reach for the ice in the freezer. Although these rectangular cubes might cloud your drink, they do effectively it cool down. Watch out for air bubbles and cracks, though: this might speed up the melting process. In a pinch, use freezer ice. But for elevated cocktail-making, you’re going to want to take a step beyond.
Standard one-by-one-inch cubes
This is the classic ice in the cocktail world, used for most drinks you order at the bar. They’re ideal for stirring, shaking, and adding to drinks because they don’t melt super fast. And their square shape and small size make them versatile and attractive.
Large two-by-two-inch king cubes
These larger cubes add flair to cocktails and are used to serve, rather than chill, a drink. They melt slower than the standard cubes and are often used in Old Fashioneds and Whiskey on the Rocks.
The classy cousin of king cubes, spheres melt even slower and are used in the same types of drinks.
The narrow large ice cubes fit perfectly in a collins glass and add an undeniable presentation to Gin & Tonics or Mojitos.
Want a chilled beverage that isn’t diluted at all? Stainless steel “ice” rocks are the answer. Keep in your freezer, pop in a glass, and pour your favorite beverage over the top. You can have a neat drink that’s cold too.
Banish cloudy cocktails and make clear ice at home.
You can make your own ice at home, but here’s how to avoid impurities and get crystal clear frozen water every time.
Cloudy ice cubes are caused by multiple different factors. It can be tap water full of impurities. Uneven freezing in the freezer. Or dirty ice trays.
Here are different ways to make clear ice at home.
Boil distilled water
Boil your distilled water twice to remove bubbles. Allow the water to cool before boiling it a second time, and keep the twice boiled water covered while it cools down before freezing. Pour into ice cube trays and cover with plastic to keep out debris while freezing.
A cooler in the freezer
Stop your cubes from freezing unevenly and causing cloudiness by using a cooler. Find a small cooler that fits in your freezer and fill it with a few inches of warm tap water. Add your ice cube tray full of tap, distilled, or boiled water. Place the cooler with the lid off in the freezer until the ice freezes.
Low-temperature freezing method
Set your temperature to 30 degrees Fahrenheit or the warmest setting on your freezer. Fill your ice tray and play in the freezer for 24 hours. The ice will freeze slowly without bubbles or impurities.
The products you need for a perfect cocktail every time: ice cube tray, mold, and sphere
Don’t have the right products for your perfect cocktail? Check these out.
This stainless steel sphere will keep your drink cool without watering it down. Pop it in the freezer for a couple hours and use it in your favorite whisky for a neat drink that’s even cooler.
Ice spheres are a must-have for drinking your favorite beverages on the rocks. Luckily, you can make them with these perfect ice ball makers at home.
These large ice cubes are the perfect garnish for your homemade Manhattan or Old Fashioned. The flexible silicone tray and top make it easy to use and prevent spills. If you're looking for a general serving tray, check out our Zak Serving Tray.
There you have it, everything you need to know about ice in your cocktails. Check out our store for all the ingredients you need to make the best alcohol-free beverages. Cheers!