Just about every cocktail that is cold contains ice or is created in a shaker using ice. While you might think that the type of ice you use doesn't matter, it can actually make or break your drink.

Unfortunately, ice isn't usually considered an important drink ingredient. If the recipe calls for the chilly stuff, there's a good chance that standard cubes straight from the freezer will be added without a second thought. But, ice isn't just used to make a drink cold. When used in a shaker or left in the glass to melt into a cocktail, it becomes an integral part of the cocktail whether you are aware of it or not.

So, next time you reach for the ice, make sure you are choosing the right type for the recipe:

  • Cubes - Cubes are the most recognizable form of ice, and the most versatile. The uses for ice cubes are just about endless. Used for liquor on the rocks, for stirring, for shaking, or even just to chill a drink, you are more likely to see ice cubes in a drink than any other form. Ice cubes are thicker and larger than other types of ice. Because of this, they are slower to melt and less likely to dilute a drink.

  • Shaved - Shaved ice is the type of ice that you probably recognize from snow cones. It is softer, fine, and perfect for making drinks that have a thicker, frosty consistency. This type of ice works well in a shaker and is also ideal for making an adult, alcoholic version of the aforementioned snow cone.

  • Cracked - Cracked ice looks similar to cubes, but are smaller. This type of ice melts much quicker than cubes, and has a tendency to augment a drink with more water. The best time to use cracked ice is when creating frozen drinks in a blender because they break up easier and into more consistent pieces..

  • Block - If you are a bartender or just like to create a lot of drinks in your home bar, then block ice is ideal for you. Ice tools allow you to break off various sizes and shapes of ice from the block to accommodate your drink. This may be a practice you don't see much anymore, but block ice is still quite useful. These days you most commonly see block ice used for cooling punches. With the use of molds, block ice can be made into just about any form you want.

How you store your ice can greatly affect its performance in a drink. Ice can pick up the flavor of things around it, so unless you want your cocktail tasting like the catch of the day, don't store it in a freezer near fish or any other item with a prominent smell. If you keep your ice in an open container, rotate it every once in a while so that older ice also gets used. Keep several ice cube trays filled in your freezer. Cubes can easily be broken to create crushed ice or put in a shaver.

Remember, ice is as important to your drink as the ingredients themselves. Use only the freshest ingredients, including your ice and you'll have great drinks.