All About Ice: The Barman’s Best Friend

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Everyone loves getting the opportunity to sit back and relax after a long day with a good drink in their hand. But after a long day of work, what makes a mixed drink so special? Ice, of course. However, as important as ice is to a good drink, it isn’t something very many people acknowledge.

Ice, Ice, Baby…

We consider it a simple tool for cooling down a drink when we think of ice. However, it can do much more than making a beverage cooler to drink. In cocktails and other alcoholic beverages, ice is a common tool for diluting alcohol and making it more palatable to swallow. Additionally, ice can elevate a drink by turning it into a frozen treat on a hot summer day.

In this guide, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about ice and what exactly makes it a barman’s best friend.

Why is Ice Important for a Bar?

Before ice was a common drink dilution tool, mixed drinks were enjoyed warmly, and there was a stricter limit in terms of how much a person could have. Now, ice has become an essential tool for bars everywhere as many drinks are much tastier when enjoyed chilled. There are also several different ways to utilize ice that can change the texture of any drink.

Additionally, ice is an important barman tool for patrons who may not know when enough is enough. A bartender can ice down a drink when it’s time to cut someone off, and the patron is none the wiser for it.

bar ice cubes

Good Ice vs. Bad Ice

As important as ice is to any bar, not all ice is created equal. The best ice is going to be clear from any fog. When there are impurities in ice, it can create oxygen pockets. Oxygen then melts the ice much faster and can alter the taste of the drink in an undesirable way.

In addition to that, you need to be sure to use the correct kind of ice in relation to the drink you’re making. Some ice cuts fit the flavor profile of a mixed drink much better than others. In fact, a common saying among the bartending and keeping community is that ice is to a barman as a flame is to a chef.

Types of Ice Cuts

Each type of ice cut will suit a cocktail or other alcoholic beverage differently. While large cubed ice may work well for an old-fashioned, it’s not going to give the same satisfaction if it’s used for a margarita. Let’s briefly cover the different types of ice cuts and which ones suit specific drinks better than others.

Cubed Ice

Lowball drinks like the old-fashioned and the Negroni are best served with large ice cubes. These drinks are typically served in a small glass with 2-3 large ice cubes added in before the drink. To top it off, you’ll likely get a stir stick with the drink to stir for dilution. Larger cubes of ice take longer to melt, ideal for anyone who wants to enjoy their drink before the taste begins to water down.

Additionally, cubed ice that measures in perfect small cubes is best for just about any drink. One-inch cubes are an ideal size to have in any home bar as they can be used for lowball drinks as well as more high-end options.

ice cubes

Crushed Ice

Crushed ice, also known as shaved ice, is ideal for drinks that are best served frozen. Alcoholic beverages like margaritas and wine slushies are great with crushed ice, especially on hot summer days. This type of ice is also ideal for drinks like the mint julep, rum swizzle, and sherry cobbler, to name a few.

Spear Ice

Spear ice, also commonly referred to as long ice, is commonly used for highball drinks like whiskey sodas or a gin and tonic. These ice spears are rectangular in shape and are best used in tall glasses.

How to Make Clear Ice

Regardless of the ice cut you choose for your drinks, clear ice is the best way to ensure a top-quality drink. To make clear ice at home, follow these steps:

clear ice
  1. Use warm water. You should freeze warm water in a cooler for between 18 and 24 hours. This doesn’t need to be a large cooler, as you will set the warm tap water right into your freezer.
  2. Remove the ice. Take the ice out from the cooler by placing, the cooler in your sink. After leaving it upside down in your sink for 5-10 minutes, the ice should slide right out from the inside. If necessary, you can shake the cooler a little bit to loosen the ice block.
  3. Cut with a serrated knife. Use a serrated knife to cut the ice into the desired size and shape of the cubes you need. Hold the ice with a towel to keep it in place to make it easier.
  4. Shape them as needed. Use an ice pick to create the ice shapes you need, if any. If you only need square ice cubes, you won’t need to perform this step.
  5. Properly store your ice. Any ice you aren’t using right away should be stored in your freezer in an airtight container. This will prevent any impurities from attaching to your clear ice.

Icemakers For a Home Bar

In addition to freezing your ice in a cooler and freezer, there are also a variety of clear ice makers available that you can add to your home bar. These machines really come in handy for anyone who doesn’t have the time or patience to freeze ice in their freezer.

The SIMPLETASTE clear ice maker is a great choice for anyone looking for a budget-friendly option to make large spheres of ice in little time. The ice made with this ice maker is guaranteed to be slow melting, and the mold used to hold the ice is made of food-grade silicone that easily releases the ice for use once frozen.

SIMPLETASTE Crystal Clear Ice Ball Maker, × 2 Ice Ball Storage Bags, BPA-free Silicone Large Sphere Ice Mold, Ice Cube Tray for Whiskey, Cocktail and Drinks

Ice Scoops

Ice scoops are important to have on hand for people who make ice in large batches. Instead of using your hand or the serving glass to try scooping up the ice, you can use a scoop to break up and grab the right amount of ice.

The OXO Good Grips Flexible Scoop is a popular choice among customers due to its wide base and silicone grip. The wide base allows more customization in terms of how much ice you scoop at a time. The silicone grip is also handy as it provides gripping support and doesn’t cause cold hands.

OXO Good Grips Flexible Scoop

Ice Buckets

Ice buckets are great tools for entertaining when you don’t have a refrigerator on hand. Instead of hiding beverages away in a cooler, you can keep opened bottles of wine and other spirits in an ice bucket to keep them cool and available simultaneously.

The double-walled stainless steel insulated ice bucket by the FIneDine Store is an excellent choice as customers love how long ice stays frozen while it sits in the bucket. The double-walled insulation allows for much longer freeze times, and there’s also a handy pair of tongs for adding ice to your drinks while entertaining.

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Ice Trays

Ice trays are great for making batches of ice, and the trays can come in a plethora of shapes and sizes. Not only that, but some trays also come with built-in buckets and scoops to use once the ice is completely frozen.

Among those types of trays are the ARTLEO ice cube tray and storage bin. This ice cube tray can make up to 55 pieces of nugget ice at a time, and the handy storage bin underneath can store ice as each batch finishes freezing. You can also use the included scoop when you want to dish some of the ice out.

ARTLEO Ice Cube Tray with Lid and Storage Bin for Freezer, Easy-Release 55 Mini Nugget Ice Tray with Spill-Resistant Cover, Container, Scoop, Flexible Durable Plastic Ice Mold & Bucket, BPA Free

Iceball Makers

Iceball makers can come in machine form or in the form of a tray. With ice ball trays, you can sometimes find ones similar to the tray previously mentioned where a storage bin is included. This is the case with the round ice cube tray by WiBiMen. This tray allows you to make batches of up to 33 pieces of spherical ice at a time. Once frozen, you can dump it into the storage container and freeze a new batch.

Round Ice Cube Tray with Lid Ice Ball Maker Mold for Freezer with Container Mini Circle Ice Cube Tray Making 66PCS Sphere Ice Chilling Cocktail Whiskey Tea Coffee(2 Blue Trays 1 ice Bucket & Scoop)

On the other hand, you can use the Chefavor ice maker machine to make spherical ice without waiting an entire day for it to freeze in your freezer. Instead, this machine can produce high-quality ice within 6-8 minutes of powering on. Additionally, you can use the machine to make ice in two different sizes: small and large.

Ice Maker Machine Countertop, Portable Ice Maker, 26lbs/24Hrs 9 Bullet Ice in 6-8 Mins, Compact Ice Maker Electric, Self-Cleaning, L&S Ice Size, Scoop&Basket, for Home, Party, Kitchen, Office, Silver

Parting Thoughts

Who would’ve thought that ice could have such an important role in the world of barkeeping? Not only is it essential to use clear ice in your alcoholic beverages, but the shape of the ice can wildly change how your drink will taste on your palate.

Whether your drink of choice is a good old-fashioned or you like relaxing by the pool with a good frozen margarita, the composition and texture of your drink’s ice will make all the difference in the world.

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