All About Ice
Size & Quantity
Good ice helps make good cocktails. When small ice bits or chips are used for stirring, the result is often an over-diluted drink and an unsatisfying stirring experience. Ever had a piece of ice fly out of your mixing glass mid-stir? Not the best performance, especially when entertaining guests. Ice that is too small is usually the culprit. Smaller ice (and not using enough of it) will also jostle around as you stir, diluting your drink too quickly and creating lots of air bubbles, which eliminates the possibility of producing a smooth, viscous cocktail with that beautiful "mouth feel."
Larger ice cubes are better for stirring cocktails (we recommend using these Tovolo 1" Ice Cube Trays), because they stay in place and dilute slowly, giving you enough time to chill the drink without watering it down.
The mixing glass should also be full of ice (near the top of the glass), taking up about twice as much vertical space as the liquid ingredients in your cocktail. As you stir, the total volume of ice should never be skimpy enough to ever become totally submerged in the liquid ingredients. If needed, add additional ice cubes mid-stir to maintain enough ice above the surface of the liquid. By using the proper quantity, you'll ensure that the ice moves through the drink as if it were a single unit (think of it like a network of ice moving as one, rotating mass), rather than lots of ice bits floating around in a vortex of quickly-diluting cocktail.
If you live in Southern California like we do, ice made from unfiltered tap water is full of minerals and who-knows-what-else, and can impart unwanted flavors. If you're fortunate to live in an area of frequent, abundant, and clean rainfall, good for you -- your tap water will probably be just fine! Use good water to reduce impurities. We use filtered water for regular ice, and distilled water for making clear ice, because most of the impurities (which contribute to cloudy ice) have been removed.
Perfectly clear, glass-like ice cubes are becoming more and more desired in cocktail craft - and why not? Clear ice cubes are beautiful, and extra special for showcasing excellent cocktails and impressing guests.
We like to make clear ice for special occasions and presentation, especially for cocktails served over a large ice rock, like the Old Fashioned or Negroni. There are several different tools and ice molds you can buy to make clear ice at home, and some work better than others. Not very many of them, however, are very efficient at producing a sizable quantity of clear ice. If you want to make a big batch, or don't want to spend $40 on a contraption that will turn out 1 usable cube per freezing cycle, there are some homemade methods that work quite well.
Check out Camper English's blog for his index of ice experiments, and stay around for an up and coming blog post here on our site about how we do it.