Cocktology 101: The Ice-ing On Your Cocktail

4 years ago by in Cocktology 101, General Tagged: , , , ,

ice cubes in a glassIf there’s one component nearly every cocktail in the world shares (with the exception of a hot drink), it’s the use of ice. Cubed, shaved, crushed, pelleted, rounded spheres – you name it, there’s someone out there using it in their drink.

But what impact does the kind of ice used, or how much of it you use, have on your drink?

The shape and size of your ice cube have everything to do with how quickly it will melt. Smaller ice cubes or rectangular/square pieces of ice expose a larger surface area of the ice, making it melt faster. Similarly, the larger the ice cube you use, the less ice that is exposed and the slower it will dilute your drink.

Also, the more ice you have in your glass, the longer it will take to melt. If you want to a sipper on a hot day, fill up your glass with as much ice as you can!

Tip: Always add the ice after your key ingredients (such as spirits, juices or liquids that require shaking like egg whites or pineapple juice, syrups or bitters), whether in the glass or in the shaker. If the recipe calls for topping with a soda, juice or tonic, add this to your glass after your ice. This way you’ll maximize the amount of ice in your glass without over pouring the ingredients for your drink.

For Cocktails or Mocktails

In the case of cocktails or mocktails, there are three things you should consider in terms of the ice you use:

  1. The drink you are making. Some drinks call for crushed ice, others for cubed. Check the recipe before you begin.
  2. Desired dilution. The size of your ice cube and the amount of ice you use in your glass or in your shaker will affect the amount of water that dilutes into your drink. If you’re mixing a strong drink, you may prefer it dilute a little over time. In this case, use smaller cubes or ice chips. To maintain the flavours in your beverage, use at least 1″ cubes and ensure your glass is filled to the bring with them.
  3. Ice quality. The best ice is clear, not cloudy and more dense. Your drink is only as good as your ingredients, so using a high quality water for your ice makes a difference. But the way you freeze it is just as important. To avoid cloudy ice, freeze it slowly. This piece of outlines the best way to make premium ice at home without the need for expensive equipment.

For Tasting Spirits

When you’ve put the effort into finding a premium spirit you want to sip and savour, a large sphere or large cube will do best. The sphere will take the least amount of time to melt and can often be re-used for 3-4 drinks, though creating a spherical cube is sometimes more costly (and time consuming) than a large cube.

For example, a 2.75″ Cirrus Press goes for around $799.00 USD, while making perfect spheres in your freezer as this Gizmodo article suggests will take you some time to freeze the ice and cut out the accompanying molds.

A large ice cube tray like this one from Arctic Chill is a good solution for the home bartender who’s not quite ready to nerd out over ice.

For Crushed Ice

There are three methods to create crushed ice at home.

  1. Stick the ice in the metal tin half of your shaker set, grab your muddler (or a sturdy wooden spoon) and go to town! Good for 1-2 drinks.
  2. Take a clean pillow case, fill it with ice and crush it with a bat, mallet or any other heavy object. This method works better for larger quantities of drinks, in the 8-10 range.
  3. Get an ice crusher. These usually retail for around $70. Works best when large amounts of crushed ice are required at home.


As mentioned above, your drink is only as good as it’s lowest quality ingredient. The visual effect a nice clear ice cube has on a drink versus something cloudy and the dilution of the ice into the drink will all influence your final product. If you’ve gone to the trouble of curating high quality ingredients, it only makes sense you’d go the extra mile with your ice and water quality as well. High quality water that’s frozen too quickly traps gasses inside your ice cube and makes them cloudy. Using a filtered water that’s been frozen slowly over time at a warmer temperature (just below 0 degrees Celsius) will produce the best ice cubes with the least impurities for your drink.


Happy mixing!