Life Food

Why ice is the most important ingredient in your cocktail

By Ling Hui, Postmedia Network

Topics

At a time when many are stocking their bars with premium spirits to host holiday parties, the one crucial ingredient that often gets overlooked is ice.

In almost every cocktail, ice serves to chill and dilute a drink, making it refreshing while calming the burn of the alcohol.

"Proper dilution is important to getting the right balance for every cocktail you're making, especially for Manhattan or Old Fashioned lovers," says Zak Doy, head bartender at Rush Lane in Toronto.

"The best cocktails in the world are the ones that have enough ice and water added to them."

Crushed ice. Standard cubes. King cubes. What's the difference?

Crushed ice will chill and melt in a cocktail rapidly and is used when more dilution is necessary.

"(It's) used in a lot of more flavourful and boozy drinks, designed for cocktails that can be consumed at a faster pace," says Doy.

Over at The Carbon Bar, bartender Leah Young uses crushed ice to make cocktails like mojitos, mules or rum swizzles.

She calls standard one-inch cubes "utility ice" because they can be used in shaken or stirred drinks and for chilling cocktails.

Two-inch king cubes are used in very spirit-forward or spirit-driven cocktails – like Manhattans -- or for sipping really fine bourbon or scotch, says Young.

"It has a much smaller surface area, so it melts at a much slower rate, ensuring the cocktail you're enjoying or the fine bourbon ... doesn't become very expensive bourbon-flavoured water too quickly."

DON’T BE STINGY

One of the biggest mistakes we make is not using enough ice.

"As a bartender a lot of my guests ask for only a little bit of ice in their drink. What they really want is more of the drink itself," says Young. "But what they don't realize is that when you have less ice, it melts much faster and dilutes your cocktail much faster."

So if you're hosting a party, how much ice should you have?

"Assume the number of your guests will have at least three drinks each and purchase accordingly," says Doy. "The worst thing that can happen is a no ice situation."