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Why Ice Is The Most Important Ingredient


Ice is the one universal ingredient to almost every cocktail. It doesn’t just chill the drink, the dilution becomes a crucial part of the mix. Take a second and think about the last cocktail you had, now think about the one before that and the one before that. Unless you are drinking Champagne cocktails it is almost a certainty that ice was used to create that drink.

However, I’m sure that you’ve had customers ask you for just a few cubes, or to leave ice out the equation altogether. Some consumers have the idea that the industries use of ice is simply a way of skimping on volume. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Ice is a key ally in the service of a great drink. Compare how Gin and Tonic’s were typically served a decade ago, a tumbler glass with two lumps of ice and a thin slice of lemon, to how we see it today, a giant glass packed with ice and fruit – tell me that doesn’t seem to taste better!

You can mix the perfect cocktail, have the best ingredients and follow the recipe to the letter, but without sufficient ice that drink will lack the excellence you are trying to create. With ice, more is less. More ice, less dilution. The couple of lonely ice cubes you might find in a drink will dilute a lot faster than a nice tall glass packed to the rafters with fresh ice.

This is the basic principle of thermodynamics. More ice will keep the drink colder, therefore less dilution will occur. This is important not only in making cocktails but also within spirit & mixers. So remember, when using ice fill the glass to the brim. Whether it’s the Boston glass you are making the cocktail in or the Collins glass you are serving the drink in.

There are a few different types of ice, each used in different ways. Cubed is the most common and used with most drinks. Some cocktails may ask for crushed. Crushed ice can be bought, made in an ice crusher or blender or by placing cubed ice into a tea towel and hit with a rolling pin or heavy blunt object.

Top 5 rules for ice

  1. Always use lots of ice
  2. Use fresh ice for a cocktail that has been shaken.
  3. Ice should always be fresh, clean and clear.
  4. Always use an ice scoop, never hands or glass.
  5. Ice must be kept in an ice well with good drainage - melted ice dilutes drinks.

Luckily, consumers have mostly come round to the necessity of ice. The effect it has on the appearance of a drink is stark. With cocktails especially, visuals are key. Poorly presented cocktails are a sure fire way to turn customers away or limit the amount you can charge. So the next time you’re making a cocktail, fill it to the brim!

About the author

Luke Siddall (alumni)

I'm Matthew Clark's resident content creator, looking after our social media, website and customer communications. I was a cocktail bartender for while before joining but I now spend most of my time on the other side of the bar.

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