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A complete guide to cocktail ice

Southern Kitchen's complete guide to cocktail ice

Spirits and liqueurs usually get the glory, but the unsung hero of your favorite drink is ice. Our frozen friend ensures that your thoughtfully crafted cocktail comes out just right. Whether it’s cracked with a bar spoon or frozen in silicone, multiple forms of ice should be in every home bar aficionado's arsenal.

We’ve compiled the types of ice you’ll need to make craft bar-quality cocktails in your kitchen. The only question left is, what are you drinking?

Cracked ice
Find cracked ice in tiki drinks like this twist on the painkiller, where the ice helps to release subtle flavors and mellow, boozy pours (we’re looking at you, rum-based punches). To ice more than two drinks, wrap the ice in a dishcloth and gently tap with a rolling pin. For one or two drinks, place a large ice cube in your non-dominant hand and lightly strike with the back of a bar spoon. Turn and tap on each side until you have a fistful of pebble-sized ice.
Crushed or shaved ice
Crushed ice, sometimes called shaved, is best for the frostiest of beverages. The classic Southern crushed ice drink is, of course, the mint julep, but other cool, boozy summery drinks, such as a classic margarita or a moonshine mule, can benefit from all those little bits of ice that melt and blend together with your cocktail. Crushed ice disperses evenly and cools drinks fast. And never fear — you don't professional equipment in your kitchen to make this ice at home. All you need is a blender or a plastic bag and good ol' fashioned mallet. 
Large ice cubes
When you're looking for a cool drink without worrying about watering anything down, look towards large ice cubes. For best results, we recommend silicone trays. And if you’re going for clarity, use hot, almost-boiling water. Larger cubes melt slower because of their wider surface area and make the most sense in liquor-focused cocktails like a sazerac.
Ice balls
These babies are bascially a fancier version of a large ice cube. They're particularly useful when making a drink, such as an old fashioned, that you're going to build in the glass, as the round ice can be stirred with ease. When frozen correctly, ice balls are free of air bubbles, making for a slow melt that won’t break in your drink. Added bonus: they’re visually striking. Who doesn’t like a mini globe in their glass?
Rod ice cubes
Also known as Collins spears, rod cubes are great in chimney-style glasses, adding a bit of height to tall drinks. Use this style of ice in a refreshing Tom Collins or tangy paloma. You can cut rod cubes from a large block, but save yourself the manual labor — use ice molds instead.
Standard ice cubes
Of course, there's no reason why you can't enjoy a great cocktail using the ice you grab from your standard freezer trays. These ice cubes work great in any drink that has a strong citrus or juice profile, such as a maple bourbon smash, or a low-key highball drink, such as our "grown-up" Jack and Coke. For the prettiest results, follow our advice for large ice cubes above and pour almost boiling water into your ice cube tray before freezing. 

Mint Julep: Ramona King
Sazerac: Tim Wright/Unsplash
Old Fashioned: Ideabar Austin
Palomas: Ramona King
Maple Bourbon Smash: Mike Jordan