This is the ‘Big One’ While you may be able to compromise a little with the perfect glass or garnish (we’ll come on to that) you cannot make a great cocktail without the right ice. Firstly the basics. What role does ice play in a cocktail? Well, it does two things.
Cocktails are made to be served cold. Adding (and then removing) ice fulfils this purpose. Adding ice for the right amount of time and combining it in the correct way is the difference between a good cocktail and a disappointment.
You may think that you don’t want your cocktail ‘watered down’ - well, you do to a point! Mixing a cocktail with ice whether it’s shaken or stirred is critical. Experts say that the dilution rate should be between 10% and 15% allowing the spirits to mix together correctly and ‘open up’ the flavours of the ingredients. The Scots say that you should add a small drop of water (and nothing else) to whisky for the same reason and they should know, right?
The right Ice
You have two ice options: Buy it or make it.
There are some fantastic specialist ice suppliers in the UK but we’ll presume you’re not looking for industrial quantities. The first option is to buy ice from a supermarket. This option has improved dramatically over the last few years and you can buy bags of ice from Asda, Sainsbury, Tesco, Waitrose etc. for about £1 per bag. It is made with filtered water and often comes in ‘Big Cube’ size which is great for cocktails as they melt more slowly. The surface area and volume keep the temperature lower for longer, so you can manage the chilling and dilution better. The second option is to make your own ice.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts:
- Do think about buying some specialist ice trays to make bigger cubes or even ice balls.
- Do use filtered water to make the ice as pure as possible. If you want completely clear ice you can make it in a large container, let the impurities fall to the bottom and then slice off the clear ice from the top portion. This is quite an effort but makes really good looking ice.
- Don’t leave ice in your freezer for too long in open trays or the ice will absorb odours from other items in your freezer. You don’t want a fish finger Negroni!
- Don't use ice that hasn't been fully frozen for a minimum of four hours in a normal domestic freezer. Proper freezing occurs at around zero degrees celsius. This breaks all the rules and over dilutes and under chills your cocktail - bad news.