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key in on ice

We're cracking the code on all things ice — are you in? Discover the cold hard facts and all the benefits that come from keeping it chill with Larceny Bourbon!

Let’s make
this clear Better ice, Better Bourbon,
Smoother Cocktails.

“I always say that ice is underrated, that it’s one of the most important ingredients in a cocktail.”


Miguel Buencamino

America’s cocktail renaissance has expanded drinkers’ knowledge of spirits, amendments, glassware, and eye-catching garnishes. And at the center of the change is crystal-clear ice: large spheres, squares, and cubes that beautify the drink and keep it well chilled.

Think ice isn’t such a big deal? Make a cocktail with lesser-quality “cubes” from the ice maker in your home freezer. This peculiarly-shaped, cloudy ice floats atop the drink due to air trapped within it during freezing. As those pieces melt, the air releases into the liquid: blunting the cocktail’s vivid flavor characteristics.

For a nuanced American Whiskey like Larceny Bourbon—whose 92-proof point and Wheated profile results in a softer, rounder sip—this inferior ice can also prevent the drinker from fully appreciating all the spirit has to offer.

“I always say that ice is underrated, that it’s one of the most important ingredients in a cocktail,” says Miguel Buencamino, founder and owner of Holy City Handcraft, a Charleston, S.C., video and photography firm specializing in spirits and cocktails. He’s also the founder of #ClearIceWeek, a social media campaign promoting great ice. “In this day of social media, you can't say the look of the cocktail isn’t a big part of the drinking experience.”


Clear, cold and hard facts about ice

American bartenders’ desire for dense, clear ice goes back to at least the late 19th Century, when huge blocks of ice were hand sawn into smaller blocks that were chipped and chiseled into large cubes and spheres. Prohibition saw the use of handcrafted ice melt away in the U.S. until its revival here about 30 years ago. Now, high-quality ice is the standard for great bars and restaurants, where handcraft and machinery combine to create it.


Clear ice that’s made using molds for large squares and spheres is created by directional freezing. As ice freezes top to bottom, air is pushed downward. The formed ice at the top is crystal clear and solid, while any cloudy ice at the bottom is discarded.

Pricy, large-format clear ice molds can freeze 300 pounds of water into blocks in about 72 hours. A hoist removes the block from its mold and onto a large band saw.

There it’s crosscut into planks, then into squares sized to fit in a cocktail glass. At the bar, many are hand chipped into spheres.

“A sphere has the largest surface area of any geometric shape, so it should melt slower than a cube.”

Ice that benefits whiskeys

Surprisingly to some “neat only” brown spirits drinkers, large format ice is especially good with American Whiskeys. Since dense ice chills a spirit and dilutes it slowly, the boldness in Bourbons and Ryes remains long after they’re poured over large rocks and spheres. Spice and barrel characteristics remain while a host of aromas release slowly amid the chill. Whiskey on a rock, such drinkers learn, is vastly different from whiskey on the rocks—especially those from home freezers.

Ice geometry also plays a key role, says Buencamino.

“A sphere has the largest surface area of any geometric shape, so it should melt slower than a cube” whose angled edges tend to induce dilution, he says.

And what if the drinker prefers speedier chilling and dilution, particularly if the pour is high proof?

“If you want the dilution rate to be quicker, you can use smaller cubes, which when they’re clear, also look great in a glass,” Buencamino adds. “[Different ice shapes] allow you to choose how you want the drink to evolve as you sip it.”


To showcase this evolution firsthand, Bernie Lubbers, American Whiskey Brand Ambassador for Bardstown, Ky.-based Heaven Hill Distilleries, conducted some tasty ice experiments with Larceny Bourbon.

After sipping it neat as a baseline and enjoying its palate-forward caramel and honey notes, Lubbers added a couple of small cubes. Once melted, the chilled whiskey became pleasantly redolent of nutmeg. A second experiment saw him use a large ice sphere.

“When I poured Larceny on that, it melted slower and added sweet spices like vanilla near the end,” Lubbers says. “I enjoyed both, but I really enjoyed the gradual change of flavor and texture from the large ice sphere.”

“If you don’t have a good froth level, you’ve not shaken that drink hard enough.”


Sam Ross

Shaken vs. stirred

Cold, dense ice—commonly uniform 1-inch-square cubes in bars and restaurants—is ideal in cocktails. In stirred drinks where liquid clarity is essential (such as Manhattans, old fashioneds and martinis) dense ice dilutes slowly and predictably while chilling spirits quickly. In shaken drinks, such as the Paper Plane, whiskey sours or margaritas, dense ice helps bind alcoholic and nonalcoholic ingredients together without overdiluting them, and creates a frothy texture for added appeal.

Sam Ross, world-renowned bartender, bar owner, and creator of the Paper Plane, makes his popular drink from a combination of equal parts of Larceny Bourbon, Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, Aperol, and lemon juice.


“It’s a perfect combination of sweet, sour, and bitter; the holy trinity, if you will,” Ross says. In this video, Ross shakes the drink vigorously with just a single large rock, which greatly agitates the cocktail and controls dilution.

“One (large) rock will chip away as I shake, but it will not completely disintegrate or shatter,” as can happen with smaller rocks, he says. “You should be a little out of breath after shaking your drinks.” This step is also essential to achieving the ideal result; according to its maker, the hallmark of a well-made Paper Plane is a visible layer of froth atop the drink.

“If you don’t have a good froth level, you’ve not shaken that drink hard enough,” Ross says. By that he means, “We’re not rocking them to sleep, we’re waking them up.”

Why did Ross choose Larceny for what has become one of America’s favorite cocktails?

“The wheat in the Larceny Bourbon gives a really nice mellow, rounded finish as opposed to something too spicy,” he says. “It’s the star of the show in this drink.”

For more ways to enjoy Larceny Wheated Bourbon, whether sipping it neat, on ice, or in a cocktail, visit LarcenyBourbon.com.


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