Fancy bars and experienced bartenders will tell you that in some drinks, the ice makes all the difference. Some bars even serve ice in spheres or spears to maximize cooling without diluting your drink. If you can't afford a fancy ice-shaping machine, you can start improving your home bartending skills by just making better ice. Here's how.
Photo by Baron Valium
Most home ice machines churn out small, brittle cubes or semi-circles, and then dump them into an open container that lets them slowly suck up the smell of everything else in your freezer. If you want better ice, the first thing you'll need is better water – distilled or filtered, preferably. The cleaner your water is, the clearer the ice will be. The clearer your ice is, the more you can be comfortable knowing you're not adding unwanted flavour to your fine Scotch.
The Wall Street Journal suggests you start with an empty freezer and distilled water. If you want to take it to the next level, you can boil the water, letting it cool to room temperature, and then boiling it a second time before freezing it to clear out any impurities. You can also cover the water while cooling or during freezing with plastic wrap to protect it.
Once you have your ice, keep it in the freezer in Ziploc bags until you're ready to use it. Upscale bars have expensive machines that purify and shape the ice into whatever the bartender needs, but for those of us who can't drop hundreds of dollars on a specialised ice-making machine, this is a good start on the road to a better drink.