The Home Bartender: ICE

It’s The Home Bartender time! This series caters to those of you who are not necessarily working bartenders but who are really interested in drinking better cocktails and learning how to make them! Each month our Home Bartender expert, Matej Novak, will run you through a new topic. This month, he discusses ICE!

When building a cocktail, ice is the last thing you add to the mixing glass or tin. It’s also, I would wager, the last thing a lot of people give any thought to. But ice is as crucial as any other component and deserves some attention.

Ice isn’t just there to chill your drink — though it certainly does that. It also adds dilution and helps balance the drink. This line from Amy Stewart’s The Drunken Botanist, one of my favourite cocktail books, sheds some light on the matter:

“The best way to drink whiskey — and any other high-proof spirit, for that matter — is with a little splash of water. … It doesn’t dilute the flavor; it actually heightens it.”

This has to do with larger fatty acid molecules, the ones with the most flavour, breaking away from the alcohol when you add that bit of water (bet you weren’t expecting a chemistry lesson).

The same sort of thing happens when you stir or shake your drink: As the ice lowers the temperature of the drink, it rises in temperature itself and begins to melt. That means some of the water from the ice ends up in your cocktail (a good reason to be making your ice with good quality water).

A good cocktail is about balance and water is an important part of that balance. Watch the video above to the learn more about ice, including some helpful tips and a story of just how seriously some people take their frozen water.

Now, if you’ll excuse, I’ll be over here, congratulating myself on writing this whole piece without a single reference to “Ice Ice Baby.”

The Home Bartender: ICE | Bartender Atlas

Matej Novak
Matej is a writer and cocktail enthusiast living in Kingston, Ontario. He’s annoyed bartenders with endless questions in cities including Toronto, New York, San Francisco, Portland, Prague, London and Tokyo. He’s also amassed more cocktail tools and accoutrements than with which he knows what to do (told you he’s a writer). Don’t be like Matej. Learn from his mistakes — and his successes — instead.
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