How to choose the right ice for your non-alcoholic cocktail

Mar 30, 2023

I’ve got to admit, I always eat (or drink) with my eyes first. And what I love about mocktails as much as anything else is you can make them look gorgeous whether it’s for your guests or just for yourself. As I’ve tried and tested many mocktail recipes, I’ve realised the type of ice shape you use doesn’t just make your non-alcoholic cocktail look good, it can also affect the overall flavour and drinking experience of your mocktail!
Non-alcoholic Moscow Mules with Crushed Ice on a chopping board

Why the shape of the ice in your non-alcoholic cocktail matters

Most of us probably think that ice, even in the best mocktail recipe, is there to just keep the other ingredients cool. That’s part of it, but I’ve come to understand that your choice of ice can enrich your overall drinking experience and influence the appreciation of your non-alcoholic spirits. And trust me when I say I really know how to appreciate my non-alcoholic spirits!

Here’s my guide to each type of ice cube, and which easy mocktail recipe it’s best suited for.

Standard ice cube

When I say standard ice cube, I’m talking about the kind you make in a tray in the freezer — bags of frozen ice from the servo are great for keeping drinks cold on the outside, but please don’t be tempted to throw them into your next mocktail!

It’s definitely the most humble entry on this list, but standard freezer ice is perfect for non-alcoholic cocktail recipes that call for ingredients to be stirred or shaken with ice and strained before serving. Its medium size cools down and dilutes your ingredients just enough to ensure a perfect blend of flavours.

I always keep plenty of standard ice in the freezer so I can whip up an Espresso Martini mocktail when I need one. It’s also great in highball non-alcoholic cocktails like this Pink Mocktail recipe, which comes alive with bright, juniper-infused Ms Sans Pink Juniper Berry Blush non-alcoholic gin.

Big ice cube

Bold and a little bit blokey, I always think large square ice cubes lend a certain weight and feeling of formal luxury to a non-alcoholic cocktail soirée.

Big square ice cubes are the best ice for cocktails and mocktails that you’re going to sip slowly and savour, and they’re great for showcasing your best non-alcoholic spirits because they melt slowly enough to open up all the complex flavours without diluting your mocktail too much. I always use big ice cubes in my non-alcoholic whiskey mocktails like an Old Fashioned or a delicious Kings of Sour mocktail.

Big ice spheres

Large ice cubes are great for that formal, old-fashioned sort of cocktail with a dark non-alcoholic spirit, but for something a little more festive, I love the appeal of a huge ice sphere — they just look so good! Of course, their large size makes them great for keeping drinks like Negronis cold as you slowly sip on them too.

You’ll need to take into account the glass you use for a mocktail with a big sphere of ice as it won’t fit in a tiny little coupe glass! Served in a tumbler with a drink like this Sans Bar Blossom Gin mocktail though, they’re absolutely perfect. A big ice sphere will make sure you taste all the botanical notes of the star ingredient — the Sans Bar Notting Hill Stroll. It’s my absolute best-seller thanks to its authentic gin flavours.

Collins Spears

Next up is Collins ice spears, also known as ice shards. They’re named after the Collins glass which is where they’re most commonly used. That’s the classic highball glass that you’d expect to get a gin and tonic or a whiskey highball served in at a cocktail bar.

Crystal clear spears look great and they also melt slower than regular ice cubes which is great for refreshing drinks like this Noughty Spritz or Cosmopolitan Spritz made with Ms Sans Cosmopolitan, a tasty premix perfectly balanced with non-alcoholic vodka and triple sec.

Crushed ice

Crushed ice is the fastest to melt and melds together with the other ingredients in your mocktail to create a very refreshing and icy cold drink. If you’re making a mocktail recipe that uses syrup, crushed ice cubes are the best option because you need some water to dilute all that sugary thick syrup.

I always use them in my Moscow Mule, and of course in my Chilli Margarita mocktails which I make with Ms Sans Margarita made with non-alcoholic tequila and orange liqueur.

Dry ice

Okay, I’ll admit, this one’s a little bit of fun. Dry ice, which is the solid form of CO₂ (carbon dioxide) evaporates into a swirling gas instead of melting into liquid, making it a theatrical addition to any fancy cocktail party you’ve got planned.

You can buy dry ice at many beverage and party specialty supply stores — just be careful to only handle dry ice with tongs as it’s extremely cold. So cold in fact, it’s kept in its own special cooler and needs to be used up within a few days.

It’s completely safe to be consumed once it’s evaporated out of a drink and it makes a great dramatic flair for a special occasion or celebration. I love adding dry ice to a Lemon Drop mocktail recipe for an extra special ‘drop’, or this beautiful Butterfly Pea Flower Gin mocktail which combines the magic of colour-changing Ms Sans Call Me Indigo non-alcoholic gin and the dry ice’s beautiful swirling mist.

Looking for more easy non-alcoholic recipes and tips?

Hopefully, your next mocktail is going to taste and look even more delicious thanks to your ice selections. Speaking from someone who has tried many mocktails in her lifetime, it’s definitely worth it to plan ahead and ensure you have the right ice shape for whatever mocktail recipes you have in mind — the taste difference really pays off.

I always love to see your creative takes on a non-alcoholic cocktail recipe as well, so don’t forget to follow and tag me on Instagram and use #sandrinks to show off your gorgeous drinks!

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