My guide to the different types of ice to use in your cocktails

When I started my journey into the world of cocktails, I had no idea how important the different types of ice were for the different cocktails that I was drinking. Fast forward a few years and now I find myself buying different moulds and wanting a countertop ice machine so that I am fully prepared when Friday night comes and I make myself an old-fashioned and my wife a gin bramble. 

When it comes to making a great cocktail, ice is a key ingredient that often gets overlooked. It’s not just important for keeping your drink cold, but it also plays a big role in determining how good your cocktail will taste. You can make the perfect mixture but without the ice, your cocktail won’t excel – just imagine having a bottle of coke that was left out of the fridge overnight, the coldness makes it so much more enjoyable. 

What I didn’t realise when I first started out (which I think a lot of people don’t realise) is that the more ice you put in a drink, the less dilution will occur. The reason for this is simple, the overall drink is colder, therefore, the ice melts slower, reducing dilution. So, when making your next cocktail, have this in mind and fill your gin bramble right up to the top with crushed ice. 

Here is my guide on 6 different types of ice to use in your cocktail.  

different types of ice cocktail

6 Different types of ice to use in your cocktails

Standard Ice Cubes

For most bars and people making cocktails are home, standard ice cubes are used. Most ice moulds are shaped to a standard ice cube as well as the ice you buy from supermarkets. The reason for this is that standard ice fits in most cocktail glasses, enabling you to make the majority of cocktails. Standard ice cubes are perfect for shaking and stirring cocktails, as they melt slowly and provide just the right amount of dilution to the drink.

If you are unsure of how much ice to use in your drink, the rule I follow is to make sure your ice cubes aren’t floating. If the ice floats in your glass, then add more as chances are there is not enough. The more cocktails you make in different glass shapes, the more you’ll strike the perfect balance. 

Crushed Ice

Crushed ice is a popular ice choice for three different reasons – It adds a good level of texture to a cocktail, makes it cold throughout & adds a refreshing finish and the dilution makes the drink that little bit weaker, making a more enjoyable drinking experience. For this reason, I would use it on particular drinks that benefit from the dilution, for example, a frozen daiquiri, Moscow mule or gin bramble. 

If you are unsure of how to get crushed ice, there are several ways to do so. I like to use a blender as it’s quick and easy. If you don’t have a blender, a Lewis bag and mallet is an effective way to crush ice or you can use a rolling pin with the ice securely wrapped in a plastic bag. For cocktail enthusiasts who plan to regularly use crushed ice, you can get dedicated ice crushers online. 

different types of ice cocktail

Collins Ice

If, like me, you enjoy a Tom Collins, gin & tonic or a mojito, then you may want to use Collins ice as an alternative to standard cubed ice. Collins Ice is long rectangle ice cubes (spear-like)  which can be used in highball glasses, as an alternative to piling in standard ice. They dilute the cocktail slower and create a unique look in the glass – perfect when impressing guests when hosting them for dinner. 

For home bartenders, you can buy the specific mould online from sites like Amazon. Just make sure you check the size of them, sometimes they come out taller than your highball glasses 

Ice Balls

If you have been to a fancy cocktail bar, then you may have seen them using ice balls in a few of their drinks. Personally, I am a fan, they add an instant wow factor to a cocktail and make it look more sophisticated – although, it does require a specific mould. 

In most cases, ice balls are used in lowball cocktails – such as an old fashioned – or when drinking a spirit neat, on the rocks – like rum. The main benefit of using an ice ball is that it melts slowly in your drink (especially when compared to normal ice cubes) reducing the amount of dilution affecting the flavour. Depending on the speed at which you drink your drink, you may find you can use the ice ball multiple times before it’s fully diluted – particularly useful when drinking straight liquor on the rocks. 

different types of ice cocktail

Large Ice Cube

It would be easy to presume large ice cubes are the same as ice balls and in many ways, they share the same characteristics. They both melt slowly in your cocktail, add a bit of classiness and are used in similar lowball drinks – old fashioned, negroni, Manhattan etc. The main difference comes down to the speed at which they melt – on average ice balls melt slower due to having less surface area. Large ice cubes take up less space in the freezer, which as a home bartender, matters a lot. 

As well as in a cocktail, I enjoy using a large ice cube when I drink my spirits neat. Add it to a whisky, vodka or rum to cool it down whilst not diluting it too much. 

Whisky Stones

I know whisky stones aren’t classed as ice, however, they are an alternative to ice cubes for certain drinks which is why I want to share them with you. Whisky stones are small, typically cube-shaped, rocks made of materials such as soapstone or stainless steel that are chilled in a freezer and then added to a glass of whisky or other spirits instead of ice cubes. They are designed to keep the drink cool without diluting it, as they do not melt like ice does. They are a popular choice for those who like their whisky chilled but do not want it to be watered down by melting ice.

Above I have covered six different types of ice to use in your cocktails. Are the any types of ice that I have missed that you think I should include? Which types of ice do you prefer and use the most? I would love to hear your opinion in the comment box below.

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