Ice, your hour of judgment has come. It is time for every type of ice out there to stand up and be counted. We know you’re more than just frozen water, you are the unsung hero of cocktails everywhere, the thing that sets great bars apart from good bars—but that doesn’t mean that some of you aren’t better than others. Here, the definitive ranking of types of ice, from worst to best.
11. Crescent Ice (aka Basic Freezer Ice)
You’ve probably had a lot of this ice in your life. Made in the standard, impossible to fill without spilling, hard plastic ice cube tray, these cubes are usually very foggy and fairly small. They look terrible in drinks. They melt way too quickly. And, thanks to that awful tray, they are nearly impossible to extract without dumping the entire lot of them onto your counter.
10. Shaved Ice
Shaved ice is great for boozy snow cones, but that’s about it.
9. Ice Cone
This conical cone of ice, frozen around a straw, is used solely for a Navy Grog. Though it is single use, it is quite effective, chilling both the drink and the straw for a super-cold cocktail. But until it starts popping up in other drinks, it must remain towards the bottom of the ranking.
8. Pebble Ice (aka Nugget Ice)
If we were ranking ice for soda, this one would be close to the top. Made famous by fast food places like Sonic, this ice type is slightly bigger than crushed ice, and therefore melts at a slightly slower rate. Though you can swap it in for crushed ice in drinks like Swizzles or Juleps, it is hard to come by.
7. Ice Spear
A somewhat underrated ice type, long, rectangular ice spears are perfect for tall Highballs or Bloody Marys.
6. Ice Ring
Ice rings are easy to make but impressive to behold and the key to show-stopping party punches. You can layer them with fruit and herbs or simply drop them into the bowl as is. The ring will keep the punch perfectly cold and earn you some major cred.
5. Ice Sphere
The ice sphere is great for whiskey drinkers who want a little chill but not a lot of dilution. And it looks really cool, too. The only downside is that it is hard to make many ice spheres at one time. But for the solo drinker, this is a pretty great choice.
4. Crushed Ice
An absolute necessity for strong tiki drinks like Mai Tais and Zombies, crushed ice is the ice for summer. It’s even the best choice if you’re making blended drinks. We would be lost without crushed ice.
3. Big Ice Cube
Like the ice sphere, this is a great option for straight spirit drinkers who don’t want too much water in their booze. Unlike the sphere, though, these cubes are easier to make in multiples. So you can actually drink with your friends. What a novel idea.
2. Hand Carved
The crystal clear, hand-carved ice chunks showing up in craft cocktail bars across the country are almost too pretty to let melt. Luckily, since they’re carved from a giant block of ultra-solid ice, they melt much slower than anything you can make in your freezer.
1. Two-by-Two-Inch King Cubes
This is, by far, the most useful type of ice you can possible have. Perfect in a shaker or in a glass, this type of ice reigns supreme over all others. If are only going to stock your freezer with one type of ice tray, make it a silicone king cube tray. You’ll drink well.