It may sound silly, but ice matters. In bar language, if you order something on ‘the rocks’ you are getting your favorite spirit over ice.
Now it’s time to explore the marathon debate, should you dilute your spirit with ice, or enhance it?
Many bartenders will tell you there is no right or wrong answer. After all, it is your drink and you should have it served the way you like it. We all know the purpose of ice is to chill a drink and often it replaces the splash of water some may add. It just all comes down to personal preference.
Remember ice is very important, especially the shape, size and clarity. It’s arguably the most important ingredient. Believe it or not, there are different styles of ice. Clear, larger ice is often best because it is likely free from impurities and lasts longer. The idea is to keep the ice as cold as possible because fresh ice cubes will preserve your drinks longer without diluting them.
The smaller the cubes, the faster it will melt. When you are at home making a cocktail, don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t taste the way your bartender makes it – they know a few tricks. You just need to respect the idea of ice and you too can make killer cocktails.
Lets take the stirred cocktail. Make sure to watch the edges of the cubes. When stirring they will begin to loose their sharp edges and that’s when you know the drink is ready to be poured.
If you are shaking cocktails, look for the slight frost on the outside of the tin or metal shaker. That’s your cue that its ready. Cocktail lovers, make sure to remember this, ice at home can often pick up flavors from the food in your freezer. If you're from Louisiana that can be fish, shrimp or other seafood or meat. When entertaining, most bartenders will suggest getting a fresh bag of ice from the convenience store on the corner. But there is no better ice that the large square cubes and spheres used by bartenders in many craft cocktail bars.
Have you seen the whiskey ball – large ball of ice – mainly made in a mold? These are good because they melt slowly and it will limit the dilution of water in your drink. Crushed ice is very popular in modern drinks. You’ll find it in mojitos, Moscow mules, mint juleps, tiki and frozen drinks.
It cools the drink faster and it works miracles if you’re putting in a beautiful garnish like mint, basil or your favorite fruit. So, when ordering always keep in mind, ice to a bartender is like a hand in a glove. It has to have the perfect fit. If in doubt, ask the star behind the bar what they think. They should be happy to tell you the theory behind the ‘ice culture’ and why ice can be the difference between a good cocktail and an unforgettable one.
If you have a great ice story or bar that has a great ice theory, let us know so we can check it out and share it with imbibers everywhere.