Any cocktail bartender worth his salt will tell you it is a vital ingredient in many cocktails. Some customers on the other hand will tell you it’s a way of cheating you out more booze or even worse, watering down your favourite beverage.
Having worked in various bars and now as an experienced independent cocktail bartender over the years, I can tell you that yes, there are some cheeky so and so’s under pouring spirits to make a quick buck, but the vast majority of high quality bartenders will all know exactly how much spirit to put in a drink, be that by eye, or with a measure. The amount of ice in the glass will not affect the spirit content.
‘But won’t the ice water my drink down?’
Not too long ago, I was confronted by an angry woman who wanted to know why; I had the audacity to water down her Long Island Iced Tea with a glass full of ice. What was I thinking? I had served her a delicious cocktail bringing together 5 classic white spirits (Vodka, Gin, Tequila, Rum and Cointreau) shaken with sharp lemon juice, all floated beautifully over a bed of sweet Coca-Cola; and I had ruined it with too much ice, watering it down…
“Well, allow me to retort!” Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction (1994)
I will be the first to admit that, yes, ice melts. It will eventually, become water as it once was. Ice surrounded by liquid, particularly at a warmed temperature will speed up the process.
However, think about it for a second.
A glass with a small amount of ice and a large amount of liquid will match to the temperature of the drink and not the ice. Less ice to melt, and more drink to cool.
A glass full of ice will get a lot closer to the temperature of said ice. In fact I can almost guarantee that by the time you have leisurely finished “your tasty beverage” the vast majority of your ice will still remain and you will have enjoyed it cold.
Ice does more than just chill the drink, it is a useful tool in shaking a cocktail, blending the spirits and mixers together by breaking down the flavours slightly so that they combine. It is a vital ingredient in the bartender’s arsenal and one which the best bartenders include as an ingredient, not an option.
Now what I think Mr Jackson meant to say was:
“You mind if I have some of your tasty [cold, ice filled] beverage to wash this down?”
“Go right ahead.”
“Ah, hit the spot.”