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4 Different Types of Ice For Cocktails

A lot more goes into making a cocktail than you may think. Not only do you have to have the right ingredients on hand, but you'll also want to use the correct type of ice. Cocktail ice can make or break a drink. The right kind of ice will keep your drink cool while also ensuring that all drink ingredients bind together correctly. Cocktail ice can also help smooth out the flavors of a potent cocktail by watering it down slightly.

But isn't all ice the same? Not exactly. Though all ice is essentially frozen water, the shape and size of the ice will determine how quickly it melts and how much water gets diluted into your cocktail. Too much ice, and your cocktail will likely become a watered-down mess. However, adding the right amount of ice can help open up the spirits of the cocktail and enhance the overall aroma.

Some pre-made cocktails like our Ready-to-Drink Cocktails are delivered chilled to your doorstep, while others will need to be poured over ice to chill properly. Following the directions and using the correct type of ice in recipes that call for it will ensure that you enjoy all the flavors to the fullest. To help you create a five-star cocktail, here's a list of 4 different types of cocktail ice and how to make each.

Standard Ice Cubes

Let's start with the basics. Standard ice cubes are the most common type of ice used when making cocktails at home. Whether you purchase a bag of ice at the store, gather some from your freezer, or create your own in an ice cube tray, most standard-sized ice cubes are roughly 1 inch by 1 inch. Their simple shape makes them easy to fit into nearly every type of cocktail glass. In addition, because ice cubes have a large, thick surface, they melt much slower than other types of ice. This works well with most cocktails as it prevents the ice from melting before you have time to finish your drink—meaning that you can enjoy a well-chilled cocktail without it losing its original flavor. Standard ice cubes also work well with cocktail recipes that require the mixture to be shaken or stirred.

How to Make Standard Ice Cubes

The easiest way to make standard ice cubes is by purchasing an ice cube tray. Ice cube trays come in several different materials, with plastic and silicone being the most popular. Once you've chosen the perfect tray, follow the steps below to make the ideal ice cube for your next cocktail.

  1. Wash and dry the ice cube tray thoroughly before using. Next, fill the tray with water, pouring the same amount of water into each compartment so that the ice cubes will have a uniform shape and freeze in the same amount of time. 

Note: Depending on where you live, tap water may be used to fill your ice cube tray. However, the minerals in the water may cause the cubes to look cloudy or acquire a poor taste. For the best quality ice cubes, we recommend using filtered or bottled water. For crystal clear ice cubes, boil the water beforehand, let it cool, and then fill the tray.

  1. Once the ice cube tray is full of water, place the tray on a flat surface and put it in the freezer. Ensuring that the ice cubes are on a flat surface is essential to allow the ice to freeze evenly. Because the back of the freezer is often the coldest, you'll want to try and place the ice cube tray as far back as you can.
  1. After the ice is frozen, remove the cubes from the tray for storage, or place them directly into your drink. Removing the ice cubes from the tray will protect them from the other odors in your freezer, which can affect the ice's taste. If you're not using the ice immediately, place it in an airtight container or freezer bag.

Though each cocktail requires a unique amount of ice, if you're not sure how much to add, we recommend pouring your cocktail mixture into a glass until it is ⅔ of the way full before adding any ice. If the ice is floating, then there may be too much cocktail and too little ice. For a great-tasting drink, balance is crucial.

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Large Ice Cubes

As the name suggests, large ice cubes are a bit bigger than standard ice cubes. Typically, 2 inches by 2 inches, the larger surface area causes the cubes to melt slower, reducing the amount of water diluted into your cocktail. Ideal for drinks served in a lowball glass, like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned, these ice cubes look great and will keep your drink chilled for as long as needed.

How to Make Large Ice Cubes

The process for making 2-inch ice cubes at home is similar to making standard ones.

  1. First, you'll want to find a 2 inch by 2-inch silicone mold. Using a flexible silicone mold will ensure that each ice cube is unmolded easily, reducing the risk of chipped corners. 
  2. Next, fill the mold evenly with water and find a designated and flat space in the freezer for it. Preferably, near the back of the freezer where it's coldest.
  3. After your ice cubes are fully frozen, remove them from the silicone mold and place them into an airtight container or bag to prevent them from the other odors and tastes that may linger in your freezer.
  4. When you're ready, add the large ice cubes to your cocktail and enjoy!

When using large ice cubes in your favorite cocktail recipe, the ice doesn't have to be added at the end. Instead, pouring spirits or cocktails over a large ice cube will chill the drink as it enters the glass and keeps it cooler for longer.

Ice Balls

Wondering why your at-home drinks taste a bit different than the ones at your favorite bar? Ice melt is often the culprit of odd-tasting, watered-down drinks. Because the ice served in restaurants and bars is usually designed for each type of drink and glass, it keeps drinks cool without watering them down. If you're searching for a way to spruce up your cocktail and keep it chilled all night long, then we suggest using an ice ball. An ice ball is a large and round piece of ice that melts into your drink slowly like large ice cubes. About two inches in diameter, the spherical shape prevents the ice from watering down your drink. They're ideal when drinking straight spirits or when used in cocktails like the Black Russian and Old Fashioned and are commonly added to drinks made in a lowball glass.

Sounds similar to a large ice cube? That's because it is! Though ice balls melt even slower than large ice cubes, the main difference is their shape. Unique and aesthetically pleasing, ice balls are often used as a garnish and are an easy way to boost the appearance of your at-home cocktails.

How to Make Ice Balls

Though there are a few different ways to create ice balls, using an ice ball mold is the most practical. Cost and time-effective, an ice ball mold works similarly to an ice cube mold. Most ice ball molds allow you to make two to six balls at a time. However, because of the larger water volume, they require nearly twice the time of regular ice cubes to freeze. Review the following steps to ensure that your first batch of ice balls is a success.

  1. When using a tray-style mold, separate the two-piece and focus on filling the bottom mold to the top of the tray, covering the sphere shape entirely.
  2. Next, place the top piece over the bottom tray and push it down to connect them.
  3. As you push the top tray down any water filling up the top of the tray will fill the top part of the sphere.
  4. Add more water to the top of the sphere until it's complete and place it in the freezer allowing it to freeze overnight. 
  5. Once frozen, separate the two parts of the mold and remove the ice balls.
  6. Use the ice balls immediately and store the rest in a freezer bag or airtight container until needed.

Because ice balls take time to make, you'll want to begin freezing them days in advance when hosting a party. Continue adding ice balls to your airtight container until you have enough for all guests.

Crushed Ice

When making frozen cocktails, crushed ice is by far the most popular choice. Drinks like a frozen daiquiri and mint julep wouldn't be the same without it. Crushed ice works to add a slushie-like consistency to a cocktail while ensuring that each sip is exceptionally refreshing. Ideal for sweeter drinks, crushed ice dilutes the spirits in the glass just enough so that it's not too strong.

How to Make Crushed Ice

The easiest way to make crushed ice is by putting standard ice cubes into a blender. Though some of the ice may melt due to the heat of the blender, it's a fast and effective way to make it. Once you've crushed a good amount of ice, add it to an ice bucket for guests to serve themselves. Or keep it in the freezer in an airtight container until you're ready to use.

The next time you're searching for the right kind of ice to go with your cocktail, review this comprehensive guide on how to make good ice for cocktails. From slow-melting to aesthetically pleasing ice cubes, knowing when and how to use ice in cocktails will make a notable impact on the appearance and taste of your drinks.