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What Bourbon Swillers Need to Know About Ice

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What Bourbon Swillers Need to Know About Ice

Ice seems like the simplest, most basic accessory for bourbon. You turn on the tap, fill the ice tray, put it in the freezer, and take it out when you want to chill your whiskey. Easy, right?

Wrong. Over the past few years, mixologists have led us through an ice exploration. Turns out, there is a “right” kind, and it can make or break your whiskey drink. This is why we put together an ice primer. May your bourbon never suffer another ice faux pas again.

Big cubes
Ice melts. Thus, on the rocks calls for a serious chunk of ice that will cool your bourbon without watering it down. The bigger the cube, the slower it melts, which is why ice trends have shifted away from standard trays to larger, single cubes.

Big spheres
Similar to the big cube, a golf-ball-sized sphere of ice melts more slowly and therefore doesn’t water down your whiskey. You can buy ice molds for spheres and squares online.

Ideally, you want your ice cube or sphere crystal clear, so use filtered or distilled water. Or you can try boiling tap water first and letting it cool before freezing.

The block
How do you cool a big bowl of bourbon punch? With this supersized cube, of course.

Crushed ice
Known by a variety of names, including cracked or pellet ice, this is your go-to when ice is an essential part of the drink, such as a frozen margarita or everyone’s favorite Derby Day drink, the mint julep. The most famous example of this kind of ice is Sonic, and there are now expensive machines that can duplicate it. You can also put regular ice in a plastic bag and smash it, or choose the crushed ice option on your refrigerator’s ice maker. But you won’t get that deliciously soft texture for which Sonic ice is known.

Collins spears
This long rectangular cube is designed for drinks served in tall glasses, such as the Tom Collins (hence the name). Like other big cubes, it doesn’t melt as quickly, and it’s a good option for aspiring mixologists who insist on having the full array of ice options.

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