Explorations in Mixology Cocktails Drinking

Ice Pick

We have written about a lot of products and techniques over the years at Summit Sips, especially in the early spring when we seem to have our most innovative ideas. Yet, despite its long history behind the bar, we have never seen a serious treatment of the venerable ice pick. It is a simple tool with only a few variations, but one that deserves a bit more appreciation. We also believe there is a proper way to use this tool, so we wanted to set the record straight.

Ice selection is an important consideration for the cocktail enthusiast. Sure, some cocktails recipes specify the type of ice that should be used, but recipes can’t help you select the specific cubes from your freezer. That’s where the ice pick comes in. It quite literally helps you “pick” the ice.

Take, for example, the Old Fashioned cocktail. You can build this drink in a glass with random ice cubes, but our favorite service for this one is over a sphere or a huge chunk of ice. Big ice for cocktails takes extra effort, so you probably have several made ahead of time. With a freezer bin full of ice blocks, how do you choose which one to use? Easy—arrange them on the counter and use your ice pick!

We have two ice picks in the drawer. One is a hand-made brass-handled ice pick made by Jimmy Diresta. The other is an antique with a wooden handle. We love the heft of an all-metal hand tool, and we have seen anvil-like examples that are even heavier. But the smaller antique works just as well. Whatever type of ice pick you have, using it to select ice is easy: arrange the big ice cubes roughly in circle on your counter, place the ice pick in the middle and give it a spin. When it stops spinning, the ice pick will point to the cube you should use. Return the rest to the freezer and finish building your drink.

Having the perfect ice selection in your drink can make all the difference. The right ice will keep the cocktail cold without over diluting, and as you can see, our Old Fashioned turned out great! It should not be surprising that a metal rod does a good job finding the perfect cube. Divining rods are often used to find the best place to dig for water, especially when the land is situated over an aquifer.

The only real problem we have using an ice pick to select the perfect cube is the fact that they always seem to be so sharp. It is important to eliminate ambiguity with the pointy end so there is no doubt as to which ice is being picked, but there is no reason these tools should be as sharp as they are. Setting aside the potential for personal injury, you actually run the risk of accidentally chipping the very cubes you are trying to use! We could fix this quickly with a metal file to dull the point. Another minor challenge is using it to select smaller cubes from a whole tray—or worse—using it to sort through a lot of crushed ice. You don’t often see ice picks used for these tasks, but deciding on large chunks is where your ice pick really shines.

We find that most ice picks go unused. We think it’s foolish to risk using the wrong ice by blindly selecting ice at random. So, pull your ice pick out of the drawer and start using it to select the perfect ice very time!

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