Large Ice “Rocks”
Large cubes (around 2 inches in diameter) are used one at a time and they are the best option for serving ice in spirit-driven drinks, as they melt slowly, keeping the cocktail cold with only minimal dilution over a long time.
However, large cubes are best for sipping a single spirit straight on the rocks while they are not great for mixing cocktails.
Common Ice Cubes
These are your standard, all-purpose ice cubes. They can be used for any, and all your cocktail ice needs. In general, they are around 1 inch in diameter.
Half to a quarter the size of ice cubes, but nowhere near as fine as crushed ice, cracked ice offers more surface area for rapid cooling and dilution, and gives a sparkling look to your drink. You can use cracked ice to speed up stir times as well as to serve in highballs.
Crushed ice is as it sounds—highly fractured ice that’s been broken down into smaller pieces. It means lots of surface area and quick and easy melting. It rapidly chills drinks to frigid temperatures, while also heavily diluting them, hence used primarily for serving cocktails, not mixing them.
Crushed ice also has a particular aesthetic, both in the way it looks in the glass or cup and in the way it feels, sounds, and releases the liquor held within the myriad tiny pockets as you sip.
For a small quantity of crushed ice, we use what’s called a Lewis bag. It’s essentially a small canvas sleeve into which you stick some ice cubes and then smash them with a mallet. The canvas absorbs moisture from the fast melting ice, keeping it relatively dry and avoiding a wet slushy mess so that you’re left with crushed ice that’s fairly dry. While it’s a rather abrasive method, it is simple, quick and effective. You can reach in with your ice scoop and fill your glass directly.