This is the time of year — smack dab in the dog days of summer — when I'm more than happy to hear the sound of cold ice cubes plinking into my glass.
From a smart tip on storing ice, to an ingenious method for keeping pitcher drinks cold, here are five important things you need to know about making better ice cubes.
1. Ice lasts longer and tastes better when not stored in ice cube trays.
When you store ice in the tray it was frozen in, it's prone to evaporation over time (think: shrinking cubes), and picks up flavors from the freezer. Instead, transfer ice and store it in a separate freezer bag. Bonus: You free up more space in your trays to make more ice.
2. Muffin tins are the best tool for longer-lasting pitcher drinks.
As a rule of thumb, the size of the ice cubes should match the size of what the drink is being served in. So when it comes to pitcher drinks, small ice cubes from trays don't quite cut it; you need something bigger, so cubes don't melt too fast. Reach for a muffin tin, or two — they're the ideal size to make large, long-lasting ice cubes to keep pitcher drinks cool.
3. Coffee ice cubes keep iced coffee strong until the end.
Slow coffee drinkers, beware — melty ice cubes can really ruin a good glass of iced coffee. Unless, of course, you chill your drink with coffee ice cubes. Freeze leftover coffee in ice cube trays, then use them to keep iced coffee strong until the very last sip.
4. Skip the cubes and use frozen fruit to chill drinks.
Pass on plain ice cubes in favor of a prettier way to chill drinks: frozen melon balls. Scoop out fresh melon balls, arrange them on a baking sheet, and freeze. They chill summer drinks and add a hint of sweet flavor at the same time.
5. Ice can also help the flavor of your cocktail.
Ice can do more than just chill your cocktail. When shaking or stirring your drink, there's always a little bit of melt when the ice meets the room-temperature alcohol, which adds the slightest mellowing touch of water to your cocktail.