How to Use Ice In Cocktails

What is the most important ingredient in any cocktail? Hints: it used to be a liquid, it can be made into any shape, it is very cold.


Kimberly Patton-Bragg 9 Apr 2009
5:34 am

Amen! Unfortunately we have really wet soda ice at our bar. maybe another show, you can show the techniques of cracking or making the sphere? Do you have one of those cool machines or do you hand carve like the Japanese?

RoyWagner 9 Apr 2009
6:18 am

Re: Crushed Ice

What do you mean “add more water flavor without dilution”?

A very cold drink without dilution I can see, but “water flavor”?

PS: Great presentations; very informative; unfortunately they will not transfer to my iPhone.

Ivana 9 Apr 2009
6:51 am

I`m also confused with this crushed ice thingy. Three other types I can understand, but “more water flavor without dilution” doesn`t sound right.

Crushed ice is usually very wet (if you beat it), thou it can be quite dry if you grind it right after taking if out of the freezer. In both cases it melts quickly adding more water to a drink.
From my experience: In a mint julep it works well to tone down the whisky. On the other hand I`ve never understood its purpose in a mojito. You have lime juice, club soda plus its a highball built drink. Ice melts just fine, taming the rum more than enough.

Robert Hess 9 Apr 2009
7:37 am

I think that the “...add more water flavor without dilution…” was just one of those times where you know you “want” to say something, but aren’t quite sure what you’re going to say until the words come out of your mouth.

Crushed ice provides a great way to chill a drink fast and deep. A good example of this is in a Mint Julep, where the crushed ice will chill things down such that a coating of frost appears on the outside of the silver cup. It’s not quite as quick/effective when you are using cubed ice.

There can also be a bit of “presentation” associated with crushed ice.

As for getting “dry” crushed ice. This is done by starting with fresh cold/dry ice, and then crushing it in a “Lewis Bag” type of thing (heavy canvas bag). The canvas wicks away the water, and leaves just dry crushed ice behind. Granted, the ice will begin to melt rather quickly, and get wet, but at least you are starting things off as dry as possible.


Garretto 9 Apr 2009
9:14 am

The cold hard facts, it’s amazing how some people don’t get it. I’ve had so many drinks shaken with wet ice. Diluted and not cold enough.
I often see the term “shaved ice”, what exactly is that process?
I’m pretty certain it doesn’t involve a razor, though it may with that American Bartenders School video guy—- you know, rather than throw out the hairy cube.
What is shaved ice?

Robert Hess 9 Apr 2009
9:33 am

re: Shaved Ice…

Technically, shaved ice DOES involve a razor! Well… closer to something that looks like a wood-planer. You use this on a large block of ice, in order to fairly quickly slice off a pile of “snowcone” type of product.

Here is a modern example I was able to quickly find:

This method dates back to the days before refrigeration, where the concept of “ice cube trays” was unimagineable. You always worked with large blocks of ice, and cut off chunks that would suit your specific purpose. You could either use a set of chisels to create lumps of ice of various sizes, or a ice-shaver to create a pile of fine ice shavings.

Garretto 9 Apr 2009
10:38 am

Thank you, Mr. Hess.
I wish I could recall the drink recipes where shaved ice was the cooling source.
Now that I think about it, I believe I’ve actually seen someone using one of those at a carnival or street festival making cones and flavoring with colorful syrups.

I hope you’ll continue to spare us the shaved ice ingredient in your very fine drink creations.


blair frodelius 9 Apr 2009
10:52 am

The ice ball was made with a mold.  Here is a video to whet (wet) your appetite (or should that be “slake your thirst”?

Anyway, I was all set to order one until I saw that they were going for almost $200 with shipping!  If you’ve got the cash here’s the source:

Oh, well, guess I’d better get “cracking” on learning how to carve my own.



Galin 10 Apr 2009
3:23 pm

Much respect to Jamie. Ice is indeed the ingredient mostly overlooked when mixing drinks. That is why i think the presentation although wonderful was kinda incomplete.For more in-depth info on ice and its properties check Thank you Robert for your work. Jamie please start posting again!

Raven 10 Apr 2009
4:41 pm

What are some examples of drinks where the ice ball can be used?  Jamie—great topics and presentation.  Unfortunately, like Wagner I’m having problems transfering to my ipod.

Berkana 11 Apr 2009
2:41 am

The ice shown in the video was not molded in the Taisin brass ice mold; it was most likely cast in a spherical ice mold such as this: Ice Tray Set_10451_10001_57253_-1_11515_11521_null_shop_

At $16, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than the $170 ice mold in that Youtube video. This ice mold is also from Japan.

The device shown in the video takes the spherical ice concept (which is already an example of Japanese obsession with optimization) and takes it to another level: the Taisin ice mold is intended to melt-mold blocks of crystal clear ice into spheres with absolutely no visible seams by pressing a block of ice between two brass anvils. A “conventional” spherical ice mold will leave seams on your ice ball and a little sprue on top where the water was poured in, and is difficult to make totally clear ice in.

If you pour your water into a mold for spherical ice, it is going to be cloudy unless you use de-mineralized water that has had all the dissolved gasses boiled out. The only other way to get crystal clear ice is to freeze the water one thin layer at a time; the freezing process drives out the gasses, and as long as each layer is thin enough, the gasses escape upwards rather than getting trapped in the ice. This layered method is how some ice machines manage to produce crystal clear ice.

Berkana 11 Apr 2009
2:47 am


The practice of spherical ice arose in Japan for drinking whiskey on the rocks very slowly (usually accompanying length conversations). Their bartenders were concerned that the drink would not be as enjoyable if the ice melted too quickly. Since spheres have the least surface area for the amount of volume they contain, they will chill a drink for the longest time with the least dilution.

The preferred drinks for use with spherical ice are hard liquors that would otherwise be served with cubed ice; in Japan, they usually serve Scotch or Japanese whiskey over spherical ice.

Berkana 11 Apr 2009
2:55 am

Here’s an example of a bartender preparing spherical ice before serving a drink:

Dinah (MetaGrrrl/Bibulous) 18 Apr 2009
2:08 pm

Two points:

1) it is vitally important to understand that when Jamie says dry ice, he means normal ice that is dry to the touch, not melting already. Really cold ice stays dry and will thus chill your drinks more efficiently with less dilution. He does not mean solid carbon dioxide.

2) I kind of see where you were going with “more water flavor without dilution”, a bit. A julep made without crushed ice and instead chilled with just a small amount of water added equivalent to the initial melt wouldn’t taste the same.

Yes, technically it is going to give you more dilution - there’s more surface area - but that’s why you want to pack the ice in a bit for those tiki drinks & other crushed ice. You slow the melt while retaining a fresh, cool taste that has just enough softening from the melt to take the edge off any strong spirits.

Inspiration for your icy thoughts may also be found here:

Berkana 18 Apr 2009
2:11 pm

Imagine if he were to have used solid carbon dioxide (“dry ice”). That would be a neat drink, though probably not safe to drink without a straw.

leigh 11 Jun 2009
12:03 pm

Can anyone offer some recommendations on ice machine manufactures?  There has to be some machines that produce ice of a higher quality…right?

Robert Hess 11 Jun 2009
12:22 pm

Leigh, for home or professional use?

The one that most bartenders drool over, is the “Kold Draft” line (, they are more expensive than the rank-and-file machines, and from what I understand they have a tendency to be a little touchy, but they make wonderfully large, square, solid, and cold ice cubes. In addition to the larger “size of an entertainment center” type of ice maker, they also make a smaller “size of a large mini-fridge” version, but it is my understanding that it isn’t designed to make the same type/size of ice.

If you are talking about a “home” machine, then the above “small” kold-draft might sound like an option (it still costs about $2k?), but as I indicated, it is my understanding that it’s not the same type of ice.

leigh 11 Jun 2009
1:07 pm

Thanks Robert…very helpful.  By the way, I really enjoy your site, there’s a lot of great information here.  Cheers

Galin 11 Aug 2009
2:33 pm

Robert have you any idea if Kold Draft is sold outside the US? We are based in London and all our efforts to find UK distributor prooved futile. we wrote to the sales team in the US but had no response so far.
Thank you for your work on promoting sophisticated drinking throughout the world!

Robert Hess 11 Aug 2009
2:48 pm

No, I don’t think Kold Draft is currently available outside of the US, in the UK I believe the brand you want to look up is Hoshizaki, which is a Japanese manufacturer, and I’ve heard make a machine the is equivelant to Kold Draft here in the US (but no first hand knowledge).

You might also want to drop by and ask there, there are many UK bartenders in the forums, and I suspect they’ll be able to give you some answers from personal experience.


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