Friday, Dec 08, 2023

Want Better Cocktails? Use Better Ice

Want Better Cocktails? Use Better Ice

Here’s how and why the right ice makes great cocktails.

Representational Image/Unsplash

There’s never a bad time to throw a cocktail party. “What makes a good cocktail?” you may ask. Truth be told, the crucial ingredient in all the cocktail drinks is ICE.

If you’re mixing up a drink on the rocks, shaking or stirring a martini, or maybe firing up the blender – you need ice.

Ice definitely does more than keeping your drinks chilled. As it melts, it becomes part of the concoction. Properly prepared ice can make or break a tipple. Ice is as essential as freshly squeezed fruit juices and quality alcohol in any cocktail.

We’re here to tell you that if you’re into cocktails, you should absolutely consider ice a vital ingredient. Here’s a short brush up on the history of ice, how it is a most important ingredient, and easy tips to help you up your cocktail mixing game.

Cubed, crushed, cracked, or shaved – all cocktails need some form of ice. Chilling a cocktail is essential because the cold sensation of the drink helps to inhibit the taste receptors on the tongue. This, in turn, helps the drink become more palatable and not taste quite so alcoholic.

Not many know that the higher the alcoholic content, the colder the drink has to be. It was for a reason that the drinks made during the early 20th century were no larger than three ounces in quantity and meant to be consumed quickly. Dilution is equally essential in a drink – the melting of ice makes the drink smoother and more appealing. However, too much dilution will weaken the flavours of the drink.

Let’s know the different types of ice:

Block - large and dense, reduced surface area to volume ratio means it will melt slowly.  Perfect for a strong drink that would benefit from chilling, but not diluting too much.

Cubes - Midsize, most commonly used in drinks and for shaking and stirring cocktails

Crushed - very small pieces that will melt quickly, used for serves like juleps that have not had any other dilution (stirring or shaking) 

Evonne Eadie, Reserve Brand Ambassador at Diageo India, tells us that the taste of the drink will change if the type of ice is not right. “Ice, in particular, is crucial to the drinking experience; it controls the temperature and dilution.  If not enough ice (or too small pieces) is used then it will melt quickly and create a watery drink.”

She adds, “It will also allow the drink to warm up which will affect the way flavour is perceived.  For example, both alcohol and sweet flavours are less prominent in cold temperatures.”

“In a properly-made ‘Negroni’, the ice will be one lump, a large sphere that will likely still be intact by the time you finish your drink. Several smaller cubes of ice float in a well-made ‘Old-fashioned’,” she explains.

Here are a few tips for making great ice, and hence, amazing cocktails:

Use fresh ice:

  • Old ice kept in the freezer for a longer time will pick up the flavours of the freezer and impart them into your cocktail. That’s not all, you should never reuse ice that has already been used to make a cocktail.
  • Once you have poured the ingredients into a shaker, fill it at least halfway with large cubes and shake it for approximately 30 seconds to get the proper dilution and temperature of the drink before straining into a glass.

Tip: A metal shaker tends to retain cold better than glass ones.         

Size matters:

  • It’s basic- small ice cubes melt faster, diluting your cocktail quickly. The longer it takes to finish the drink, the less taste it will have. Large block ice cubes or spheres are the most preferred for cocktails.

Tip: While filling the ice trays – the hotter the water, the better the ice.

Try these recipes and impress your guests:

Tanqueray Martini

60ml Tanqueray No10

10ml Dry Vermouth

Stir over ice to chill and dilute, strain into a chilled coupette glass and garnish with a citrus twist or olives

Johnnie & Ginger

50ml Johnnie Walker Black Label

150ml Ginger ale

A squeeze of fresh lime

Combine in a highball glass with lots of cubed ice, garnish with a slice of ginger and lime

The Singleton Old Fashioned

60ml The Singleton of Glendullan 12YO

10ml Sugar Syrup

2 dashes bitters

Stir over ice to chill and dilute, strain into a chilled rocks glass with a large block of ice and garnish with an orange twist