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A complete guide to cocktail ice
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A 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?

Crushed or shaved ice

Crushed ice, sometimes called shaved, is best for the frostiest of beverages. Think a classic margarita, or for smokier tastes, a mezcal mule. Crushed ice disperses evenly and cools drinks fast. Your blender blade will cause crushed ice to melt a bit, so drain well to reduce the wateriness. Or stash the ice in a bag and crush with a wooden mallet.

Cracked ice

Find cracked ice in tiki drinks like mai tais, where the ice helps to release subtle flavors and mellow, boozy pours (we’re looking at you, fog cutter). 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.

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 an old fashioned or boulevardier.

Ice balls

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? Our recommended Ice Baller is worthy of Instagram. Try with Bulleit rye or in a Southern Amaro for an unexpected twist on this mellow after-dinner drink.

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.

Whiskey stones

Faux ice, or alternatively, the best way to cool a drink without any dilution. Use whiskey rocks to get your chill on fast. These soapstone cubes are stored in the freezer and come in a range of sizes. Use in any drink, but we like them in a peaty scotch like Laphroaig, or for a truly Southern take, toss a couple in some Knob Creek bourbon.

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