Ice as an Essential Ingredient
Warm weather brings rising thirst and what better way to quench that craving than with a refreshing cocktail or beer. For some drinks, it’s definitely the colder, the better!
Some cocktails are by their very nature cold, daiquiris and margaritas are often blended with ice and are usually best when freshly served. Others, such as Long Island Iced Tea or a traditional Bloody Caesar, are best enjoyed over ice…lots of ice.
Ice is really not something to be taken for granted. Besides filling the glass and chilling the drink, what’s so important about ice? Well, there are a couple of things, including how the ice chills a drink and what it contributes in the way of flavour. Yes, certain ice cubes contribute flavours, and usually not good ones. Other factors, such as the size of the ice cube, can also affect your drink. While most people consider ice melting and diluting your drink as a negative thing, any good bartender knows that the dilution of the ice actually adds to the flavor of a good cocktail.
It is true that a really cold cocktail tastes better, and that’s because cocktails have a different flavour balance than wine or beer. Your standard beer has a low alcohol content so serving it even lightly chilled will remove any traces of the alcohol flavour. When you get into vintage wines, they can have an alcohol range from 12 to 15.5 percent so the alcohol is more apparent. But cocktails can have an even higher percentage of alcohol, think martini, so they need to be much, much colder to avoid that “hot” alcohol sensation.
To chill a cocktail you want to use very cold ice. The colder the ice, the more heat it can “pull” from the warm spirits and mixers. To tell if ice is really cold you can simply look at it; if it has a wet look it is starting to melt and is around 0c; if it has a dry frosty appearance it means it is still very cold. The simple rule is that the colder your ice, the colder your drink.
Now some people choose to put their spirits in the freezer to make them super cold, and therefore their cocktail super cold. And while this will work, the strategy fails in one area where ice is also important, and that’s dilution. If you are making a cocktails that’s primarily alcohol, like a martini, then without ice or some type of dilution, the pure alcohol will be very strong on your taste buds. Cold just won’t make it better. It’s that little bit of ice that makes a drink smooth and appealing. It is always a balancing act, but the general advice is don’t chill your spirits because they need to be warm enough to melt the ice.
Now as an alternative to chilling your spirits, why not chill your glass by rinsing it with a bit of water before placing it in the freezer until there’s a nice white frost clinging to the glass. Pour your cold cocktail in this glass right before serving.
Finally, the size of your ice cube can also change the way your drink tastes. Smaller ice cubes tend to melt faster, therefore diluting your drink quicker. A drink will taste its best when it is first served, and the longer you take to drink it, the less flavour it will have when you finish. Try using big cubes that have less surface area then a bunch of smaller cubes as they release the water slower and your drink doesn’t get as watered down.
Like great food, great cocktails need to be made by looking at the little details – like the ice. Ice is a big part of a drink, so using cold, fresh ice is the best way to achieve the perfect, cold cocktail.