Pretty drinks always taste better. Bars have figured this out and some are now charging extra for "hand-cut ice rocks" so you can have the coolest drink on the rail. Of course, it's more than just aesthetics. Large ice melts slower thus keeping your beverage at its served strength longer. But we are talking about frozen water here. And that should not cost you anything but time if done correctly at home. There are three main types of ice being served up at cocktail bars these days and here's what you need to know about them.
Ideal for juleps or tiki style drinks, this can be acquired from any form of solid ice by placing it in a Lewis bag and hitting it with a mallet. Any bar that sees volume, skips this step and uses a different machine to crush in bulk, though the stress relief from smashing ice is usually missed.
Machined cubes made by a "KoldDraft" or "Hoshi" ice maker are formed by a slow downward spray freezing and come out in perfect, just-over-an-inch cubes. Meant for shaking and stirring cocktails, they can be easily cracked to increase the surface area so drinks chill faster.
A Clinebell machine spits out 300 lb. blocks that are then cut down with a chainsaw to more useful sizes. These crystal clear pieces are great for serving drinks or straight pours as they melt slower and look beautiful. Most bars purchase ice like this in large 60 lb. bricks and break them down before service.
Make Your Own
You can easily make all three styles at home by freezing a large block inside a cooler or lunch box. This "directional insulated freeze chamber" will produce stunningly clear ice.
Take a hard sided cooler (Coleman, $19) and fill it three-quarters full with water. Don't boil the water. No need to use special artesian magic water. Just leave the lid off and put it in your freezer.
Wait 12 to 16 hours and check the ice. If it's solid, remove the box from the freezer and let it temper on the counter to loosen up.
Turn it over on a cutting board and let the ice slide out. The bottom quarter or so will be cloudy because of trapped gasses but after sitting out, it will be easy to separate.
Score a line in the block with an old bread knife, tap the top of the knife evenly into the ice with a mallet and you will have removed the cloudy part (save for crushing). Continue this somewhat therapeutic process by cracking the block into perfectly clear ice cubes and keep them in the freezer until ready to use.
This compact set of ice-crafting tools works like a dream. It comes stocked with an ice mold, mallet/muddler, chisel and Lewis bag to make any type of ice you need.
$60 at Studio Neat