When I was in fourth grade, my family got a new refrigerator. It was a pretty big deal. Not because the handle was fully functional. Not because there was more magnetic surface area for hanging robot drawings and crumpled report cards. It was a big deal because there was a crushed-ice feature in the door of the freezer. I’d lived my entire life with cubes, and suddenly, there was another option. This crushed ice thing was incredible to my ten-year-old mind. But I was ten. My small brain was seduced, my young eyes blinded by something new and unfamiliar. Now I see crushed ice for what it is: Crushed ice is a rapidly melting mountain of bullshit.
Crushed ice was born from laziness and impatience, a testament to the overall quality of the product. Its only advantage is that it cools liquid more quickly. There’s more surface area, which means your water or soda or coffee or whiskey touches more ice. More contact, more cooling, more quickly. But come on, you can’t wait the extra 17 seconds for your cubes to do the trick? Is your time that valuable? Are you Usain Bolt?
Fittingly, crushed ice’s greatest strength is also a weakness. More surface area means that it melts at a faster rate, which dilutes your drink at an alarming pace. That sherry cobbler suddenly turns into three underwhelming sips under a pile of ice. That delicious root beer is now a glass of brown water, not dissimilar to something you’d find puddled on top of a pool cover. Was that hyperbole? No. It was not.
In addition to the scientific and mathematic inferiority, crushed ice’s greatest flaw is that you always end up eating it. A glass of water turns into a never-ending assault on your teeth as a million icy pebbles shatter inside your mouth. A mint julep becomes a whiskey slushie. An iced coffee is an under-flavored snow cone. There’s no avoiding the fact that you need to eat your drink, which, to me, is absolutely absurd.
I’m not going to monopolize opinions on crushed ice. There are people who enjoy that chunky disruption in a beverage. Our very own deputy editor Andrew Knowltonis one of them. “Crushed ice is an ice eater’s ice,” says Knowlton. “I’m a big ice eater, and it gives me the instant satisfaction of crunching on manageably sized pieces.”
“I also like the fact that it cuts through a sweet drink pretty quickly,” he adds. “There’s an alchemy that happens when room temperature Coca-Cola hits crushed ice. It melts in the perfect way that takes the edge off of that sugar content.” Knowlton admits it’s not perfect for every drink. He wouldn’t pour anything from his extensive bourbon collection over it, but he’ll snack on it all day.
And professional booze slingers agree. ”It helps a high-proof, feel-the-burn cocktail that doesn’t mind a little extra dilution caused from the fastest melting ice around,” explains Jami Olson, owner and bar manager of Minneapolis’ Lyn 65.
I get the appeal. Crushed ice seems like a reason to celebrate. Oh, crushed ice! Margaritas! Tiki mugs! Small umbrellas with even smaller flowers on them! To me, it’s all a distraction. Ice cubes aren’t exciting because ice doesn’t need to be exciting. It just needs to make things cold while doing the least to dilute them. Ice should mimic your intentions on this planet: Hang around with the best drinks possible, for as long as possible, doing everything possible to make your surroundings cooler than they already are. Crushed ice is the worst. Live life like a cube.