Ice, That's Nice Baby! How To Up Your Drink's Chill Factor
Ice may just be the most overlooked ingredient in your drink. Unlike other elements that require some skill and/or know-how in terms of how their flavours will blend or how their use can be optimised, ice has no such rulebook. But is that really the case?
How many times has your experience of a drink been determined by the quantum of ice? Too much and your mouth feels as frozen as the Tundra. Too little and you could as well have opted for a warm beverage instead. Sometimes the ice is just enough for the temperature of your glass to be the right side of refreshing — but then it starts to melt, and suddenly you're sipping a very diluted, watered-down version of the drink you were enjoying just moments ago.
Getting the ice right for your cocktail or mocktail isn't a science but it's certainly a nice touch to add to your drink mixing expertise. So what should you keep in mind?
A Clear-Iced View
The ice we freeze at home often is whitish and opaque in colour. Which is serviceable enough, but when you want to emphasise the visual quality of the drinks you're serving your guests, it's not good enough. You want that crystal-clear frozen goodness.
Here's how you achieve that: use twice-boiled water.
The whitish/opaque bits in your ice come from impurities that are invisible to the eye but aren't removed by filtration alone. Boiling, however, does get rid of those same impurities. You want your water to boil, then cool down, then boil it once more, before cooling it one final time and then pouring it into your ice tray or mould of choice.
Another important note: always use a covered ice tray in the freezer. If your tray or mould doesn't come with a cover, you can simply place a plastic wrap or cling film over it until you need to bring the ice out for use.
The Right Type Of Ice
Okay, so you have all your gorgeously clear ice ready in the freezer. What else do you need to know? You just pop it out and dunk it in your glass right?
Well yes, you could do that. Or — you could wow the admiring masses gathered around you as you impress them with the type of ice you use depending on the drink you're mixing. Hold on, it's not as much work as it seems!
Here's a quick guide on the best ice and cocktail pairings —
These are your perfect one-inch cubes that go into classic cocktails. A rule of thumb that experts use is to fill the glass up to two-thirds with your drink and then drop the ice cubes. If the ice floats, it means you have too much of the cocktail in your glass and need to add more cubes.
These are slightly larger than your classic cubes, usually about two inches in dimension. The advantage with using the large ice cubes is that they melt more slowly, meaning your drink stays undiluted for a lot longer. These ice cubes also work well for spirits that are served on the rocks. Do remember that while larger cubes can be used for cocktails that require shaking, they're not ideal for those that must be stirred.
Mixed drinks like daiquiris and mojitos call for crushed ice. While a blender is a quick and easy way to get your ice crushed, it also leads to some loss of water due to melting. On the other hand, the old-fashioned way of wrapping some cubes in a napkin or bar towel, and pounding it with a rolling pin or similar implement, makes you a bona fide ice-crushing star.
Those who know their ice claim that the rounded shape is the most optimal for a variety of cocktails, since it reduces the surface area and thus slows down the melting. Not that we want to detract from the wonderfully well-thought-out reasons, but here's why you might want to consider rounded ice: it just looks so darn pretty!
Whatever shape you choose, do remember to keep an eye on how much spirit is going into your glass if you're going easy on the ice while fixing a drink. And then, let the chilling games begin!