When making or consuming cocktails, an emphasis is usually placed on the spirit, the mixer, or even the garnish. Just as crucial but often overlooked is the ice that’s used. In addition to affecting the temperature of a beverage, ice (in its various forms) can have a significant impact on taste, texture, and aroma. No one wants to sip on a watered down drink, so the type of ice used in different cocktails is very important.
Ice cubes are commonly used in cocktails since they can fully submerge in the liquid and when stacked in a glass, don’t melt too quickly (since cold air is trapped in the glass). Cubed ice can also help to subtly dilute a drink when shaken or stirred, which in turn affects the strength and taste of the concoction. Stronger cocktails like juleps, mojitos, and mules call for crushed ice as this type will alter the texture of the cocktail. Crushed ice allows for faster dilution, which is probably why these drinks go down so easily.
Ice balls and ice rocks, though they serve aesthetically different purposes, are both used to chill drinks at a more gradual rate. Compared to their cubed counterparts, ice balls and rocks have a much larger surface area and, therefore, melt much slower. And because water can influence the taste and aromatics of a drink, ice balls and rocks are ideal for drinking spirits like whisky, tequila, and fernet. When the temperatures of these spirits are lowered, their aromatics become more restrained these usually “harsh” libations become much more palatable.
In Japanese bar culture, ice is an extremely important component of cocktail building. In addition to the ritual of ice ball carving, their bar culture puts an emphasis on quality ice because in Japanese history, powerful people always had control over storing ice. Ice was made during the winter using water from the mountains, slowly frozen and stored in caves. Ice wasn’t available to the masses and during the summer, it was cut and brought to the city where the emperor resided.
Stay icy with the Sunday’s Rockfish Highball made with frozen Sunday’s whisky. Read more here.