Ice: a critical component for exceptional world class drinks. Whilst it is often neglected ice truly is an ingredient like your very best spirits, fortified wines, cordials or other spices, herbs and botanicals, that you might use in your cocktail.
There are different types of ice. Usually, we are referring to crushed ice and cubed ice as the two primary sources, but way back in the days there were many different variations on that theme like shaved ice. That’s primarily, because large chunks and blocks of ice were brought down from far up north in ships and were brought all the way to the south in the United States where those blocks of ice were being used in the saloons and in the old school American bars. So the bartenders had to handle these blocks of ice and created all various types out of it: cubed ice, smaller nuggets, shaved ice or they would use a traditional bag and a mullet to create their own crushed or smashed ice. Which was very fine, perfectly cold and ideal for a julip.
Now that brings us to “Which type of ice would you recommend for which drink?” In general all other cocktails, that I am preparing, use cubed ice. Large, solid chunks of entirely frozen ice. No holes, no little plugs or missing pieces in the middle, but just solid chunks of ice. Whether you stir, shake your drink or if you serve your cocktail on the rocks large, solid ice is very important. Only in a very few exceptions you would use crushed ice to serve a drink on. Probably a tiki cocktail, that has a lot of sweetness and alcoholic strength and you can tame it down a little bit, because crushed ice will add more dilution. When you serve drinks on the rocks preferably you would use a crystal clear block that is carved or beaten out of a large chunk of ice and probably has the size of a fist. And you can use that in your tumbler in your rocks glass to serve an Old Fashioned on or any other cocktail you would like to serve on the rocks.
So as a rule of thumb: Cubed ice for all your preparations whether that is shaken, stirred or served up. Crushed ice only in a very few exemptions like a mint tulip, a tiki drink or other boozy and sweet cocktails and drinks that need a lot of coldness very fastly. And the rest: Serve them big blocks of ice.