Home Bartender's Guide To Ice And Chilled Glassware

Learn how to make your drinks look and taste inviting.

Using the right type if ice and a chilled glass will make your drinks look as good as they taste. Start with fresh ice. Ice that's been in the freezer for a month or more may have absorbed odors from food. If no other ice is available, rinse the ice under cold water for a few seconds to get rid of any potential odors. Bagged ice is a good choice. The cubes are not really cube shape, just irregular chunks, but it breaks up well into nice sized pieces of ice.

Ice buckets are handy if you'll be fixing just a few drinks, but if you'll be making a lot of drinks, use a clean sink or tub large enough to hold the amount of ice you'll need for several hours. Do not use the drink glass to scoop the ice. Never. If the glass breaks, you'll have to dump the ice, rinse the tub well, and refill it with fresh ice. While all this is going on, your guests are without drinks. So, save yourself the trouble and use an ice scoop, preferably metal or thick plastic.

Most drinks will probably be on the rocks, meaning over ice cubes. Fill the glass with ice, pour the liquor first, then add the mix. Add a stir stick and swirl it around to mix the drink.

Blended or frozen drinks will require a blender. If you plan to do a lot of blended drinks on a regular basis, invest in a good commercial blender. A home blender might not hold up for long if you're going to be making pitchers of margaritas. For blended or frozen drinks, add the ingredients first, give them a quick mix, then add a scoop of ice cubes and blend. You may need to add more ice to get the consistency you want. The more ice you add, the thicker, and more frozen, the drink. Tip: turn the blender off before removing the lid.

Some drink recipes call for crushed ice. Your blender won't crush ice well. You can buy crushed ice, buy an ice crusher, or wrap ice cubes in a clean towel and beat it with a meat mallet or hammer until it's crushed. You don't really need crushed ice for frozen or blended drinks, as noted above. Frappes or mists, single liquors poured over crushed ice, would be the only type of drinks to need crushed ice. Some people, however, prefer their drinks made with crushed ice instead of cubes, but crushed ice will dilute the drink faster than cubes.

Chilled mugs are great for beer and straight-up (meaning no ice) martinis and manhattans are nice in a frosted glass. It takes just about an hour to frost glasses. Wet the glasses with water, then put them in the freezer until needed. This can be done ahead of time. Some people store their beer mugs in the freezer so they're always ready.

If you want just chilled glasses, put them in the fridge for a few hours. If you're in a hurry, or forgot, fill the glass with ice and swirl it around to chill the entire glass. Pour out the ice and fill with fresh ice to make the drink. You may have seen bartenders swirl the glass in the ice well to chill it. Don't do it. Think broken glass. It's a shortcut that's not worth it.

Drink recipes may call for a certain type of ice, but you can make your drinks the way you like them. The two most important things to remember are to use fresh ice and keep the glasses out of the ice well. Cheers.

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