The Ice Cube Tip For The Best Stirred Cocktails

The key to a great cocktail often comes down to two things: dilution and temperature. And both of these processes circle back to ice. Dilution refers to the amount of water that is mixed into your cocktail. This is where the act of shaking or stirring a drink comes into play. By vigorously agitating the ice cubes, you help them break down. This releases water into the shaker, ultimately achieving the desired ratio and cooling everything down.

When you shake a drink, the ice gets banged around the container and the cubes break apart. In the process, the drink is chilled and diluted very quickly. This is great news for a Havana daiquiri, a whiskey sour, or any other shaken libation. Stirred cocktails, on the other hand, don't have the benefit of mashing the ice about with that much force. But that doesn't mean you should shake them. Shaking a cocktail aerates the ingredients, creating a frothy texture that's not ideal for velvety stirred Manhattans or martinis. 

Instead, use cracked ice in a stirred cocktail to get the same effect. Its greater surface area allows it to melt faster than larger cubes. This brings about the water content you need, and it makes your drink cold in a flash.

How to crack ice for a perfect stirred cocktail

There are several methods you can use to crack open ice. One option is similar to what you might do to pound a meat cutlet: Place the ice cubes in a bag or wrap them in a clean towel, and pound them with a pan, mallet, or rolling pin. This technique is great if you need a large quantity of ice, whether for multiple stirred cocktails or for blended drinks. It also has a tendency to give you desired smaller pieces.

For a more suave method, you can crack individual pieces of ice with a heavy spoon. Hold a cube in your palm, and smack the side of it with the utensil. Rotate the ice, and hit it again until it has splintered into cracked pieces.

For best results with either technique, you'll want to keep your ice as cold and dry as possible. It will be brittle under these conditions, and thus more prone to cracking easily. Similarly, the tool that you're using to hit the ice should always be blunt. A sharper tool will break off more tiny shards, rather than giving you distinct pieces.

More ways to level up ice for cocktails

If you want to avoid cracking open ice for a stirred drink, you can use what bartenders call wet ice, which refers to cubes that have already begun to melt a bit. This gives them a wet exterior, which in turn allows the cubes to dilute and cool down a drink faster. In order to create this effect without waiting for your ice to start melting, you can splash a little water in your cocktail before stirring.

For a truly fancy presentation, you can try making your own completely transparent ice. When water freezes, it turns cloudy due to its mineral content. This is perfectly safe, but it's not always ideal for presentation. To avoid this, starting with boiled water is the key to crystal-clear ice cubes. You can pull out a cooler to freeze a large block of clear ice, but keep in mind that this will require you to carve it into individual cubes. For a more user-friendly experience, search for ice molds. Specially, look for insulated trays that are designed to make clear ice; a standard ice tray will not perform the task correctly.