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A Handy Guide to 5 Types of Fancy Cocktail Ice

Understanding the importance of ice will totally up your home bar game.

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A Collins spear.
A Collins spear.
Erick Castro

By this point in time, the odds are pretty good that anyone serious about home cocktails is current with the ins and outs of fresh juices, homemade simple syrup, and all of the basic bar tools. But even though most connoisseurs might have their favorite cocktail recipes committed to memory in addition to a fully-stocked bar plenty are still forgetting one of the most important components of any good cocktail: ice.

Although many of us take ice for granted, when utilized properly, ice can truly be the difference between a good cocktail and a great one. Not only does the appropriate ice boost aesthetics—because let’s be honest, an Old Fashioned on a big ice cube looks really cool—but it also helps preserve a drink's flavor.

Although many of us take ice for granted, when utilized properly, ice can truly be the difference between a good cocktail and a great one.

The first sip of a well-crafted cocktail is always the best part of the drink, but unfortunately, when one consumes a libation sitting on conventional ice, the ice tends to melt too quickly, which results in an over-diluted beverage. Poor ice, like the kind found at fast food soda fountains, is extremely popular with restaurants and hotels since it's easy to make quickly, but it certainly doesn’t bode for the best drinks.

Those who appreciate a good Negroni or Gin & Tonic will no doubt taste disappointment when building such a cocktail (that quickly turns into a watery mess) with shoddy ice.

Without a doubt, those who take note of the following types of ice will vastly improve any home cocktail game. And, don’t forget to stay away from making ice cubes out of water that you wouldn’t want to drink. Those lucky enough to live in a city with high quality water straight from the tap can use that to make ice. However, if you are like many Americans stuck with questionable water flowing out of your faucet, then do yourself a favor and use only filtered water in your ice cubes, otherwise those off-putting aromas coming out of your sink will quickly find their way into your whiskey.

On the same note, those with an ample supple of boxed food in the freezer should store frozen cubes in a Ziploc bag, or else the taste of frozen burritos and popsicles might flavor the ice.

Classic Cubes

Photo by Erick Castro

These guys will be the bread and butter for most of your cocktail needs. They are not only excellent for shaking and stirring, but also work wonderfully in drinkseverything from a Rum & Coke to a Margarita. Because of their inherent versatility, I would recommend having plenty in stock so you don’t end up running out of ice when you need it most.

Crushed Ice

Photo by Gabe Fonseca

If you ever decide to make Mint Juleps around Derby time or whip up some Rum Swizzles come summer, then you are eventually going to have to tackle the art of crushed ice. Luckily, making some good crushed ice is very simple and just requires a little bit of elbow grease. Although, you can buy an ice crusher online for a relative bargain, I recommend taking the old school route and getting yourself a Lewis Bag and wooden mallet. It is much easier to operated and creates a better cocktail because the canvas of the bag absorbs much of the ice's moisture, yielding a less watery end product.

Big Rocks

Photo by Gabe Fonseca

Since ice cubes with larger surface area melt much slower than smaller pieces of ice, these big cubes are perfect for drinks where minimal dilution is desired. Spirit forward cocktails, such as Old Fashioneds and Vieux Carrés, are ideal for these large ice cubes since the cubes are excellent at keeping a drink cold while melting as little as possible. The ideal size for these cubes is around two and a half inches by two and a half inches, and if you are not in the mood for chopping down frozen slabs with an ice pick, you can find the molds at plenty of shops online.

Punch Ice

Polite Provisions

Photo from San Diego's Polite Provisions

Since making a large batch of punch can be such a hit with guests, punch ice is perfect for hosting big groups. The easiest way to make these is to freeze some water in a Tupperware container and then pop it out of the mold once the ice is completely frozen. The resulting blocks will keep the entire drink from watering down throughout the course of the party, and although you probably won’t need massive blocks very often, there is no substitute when serving punch.

Collins Spears

Photo by Erick Castro

Photo by Erick Castro

While this shape of ice is definitely not essential, it will certainly offer some wow factor when entertaining friends. These elongated ice blocks are specifically made for serving cocktails in a Collins glass and they not only look incredible, but do a fantastic job of keeping the drink nice and cold. There are lots of places to purchase these molds online, but before you buy some, be certain that they fit your glasses.