In a lot of cocktail recipes, ice is an afterthought. Pour over ice or chill with ice are common instructions, but if you don’t know your way around cocktail ice, you might not be using it correctly for your drinks. Yes - there is a right and wrong way to use ice! To get you up to speed and ensure your boozy beverages are properly chilled, we’ve got everything you need to know about how to use ice in cocktails.
To a mixologist, ice is one of the most underrated ingredients in a cocktail that’s also one of the most important. Mess up your ice and you’ll affect the whole ratio of your drink, altering the balance of flavours and potentially ruining a well-mixed cocktail. So, the next time you’re fixing a Tom Collins or shaking up a Martini, consider the ice you use for a more polished drink.
When it comes to ice, size can have a lot to say about how your cocktail tastes. Generally, cocktails are meant to be sipped - particularly those that are spirit heavy, like an Old Fashioned. But, the longer you leave it, the more your ice will melt, diluting your drink and altering its flavour.
When you don’t want ice to dilute your cocktail, opt for one large ice cube in your glass. The surface area to volume ratio will slow down the speed at which your cube melts whilst still chilling your drink. If you do want a more diluted drink to take away the sharpness of your spirits, smaller cubes will do the trick.
Not every cocktail needs ice added straight to the glass in order to become chilled. There are many drinks, including Cosmopolitans and Martinis, that aren’t served with ice cubes but are instead shaken with ice or stirred with ice in a mixing glass before being strained into a glass. This cools the liquid without diluting it and leaves you to sip at your leisure.
Certain drinks can also benefit from a pre-chilled glass. Again, this prevents dilution whilst keeping your drink cold. To ice your glass, simply fill it with ice and allow it to sit as you prepare your cocktail in a mixing glass or cocktail shaker. Pour out the ice and pat it dry with a towel before pouring in your drink.
Fresh ice comes straight from the freezer and has a dry, almost sticky outer surface that often steams. For drinks that you don’t want to be diluted, always opt for fresh ice. Wet ice has been left out of the freezer for a few minutes and has begun to melt, creating a wet layer on the outside of the cube or ball. This is better when you’d like the ice to dilute your drink, such as with daiquiris.
When in the freezer, it’s essential that you keep your ice away from strong-smelling foods. Fish, for example, is a no-go! If you keep ice next to - or in the same compartment as - pungent food then it can take on some of the smell and alter the flavour, which might be why your ice tastes bad. If you don’t want a Mojito with notes of fish, store your ice separately.
Our mixologists at UrbanBar love to share their knowledge about cocktail crafting. If you’d like to know more, be sure to take a look at our online cocktail classes. From gin to vodka, you’ll learn how to mix a wide variety of cocktail classics and perfect your mixology skills.