15 Different Types of Ice to Cool your Drinks

Three melting ice cubes_Different types of ice

Imagine a chilled drink without ice – unthinkable, isn’t it? Ice is far more than a cooling agent for your beverages. The right kind of ice can transform the taste and presentation of your drinks. You wouldn’t dream of filling a snow-cone with large cubes, or serving an old-fashioned over crushed ice. In the world of cocktails and chilled beverages, not all ice is created equal. Let’s delve into the fifteen distinct types and styles of ice you can use to enhance your favorite drinks.


 Regular Cube

The regular cube is used to cool everything from a glass of water, soft drinks, cocktails, for “on the rocks” drinks, and mixing in a shaker with little dilution as it has a slow melt rate with a near 100% ice to water ratio.

Regular cubes of ice stacked upon each other

Of all the different types of ice, the regular cube is the most common form that is used in homes, restaurants, bars, etc. as it fits into most glasses and can be used in the kitchen, the “front of the house,” and the bar. 

A restaurant can operate with just one ice machine because of the regular cube’s versatility.

The regular cube is also widely used in the bagging of ice for sale at grocery stores as its shape makes it sturdy, easy to bag in a plastic bag, and the melt rate is slower than that of other shapes.

Also handy for home use in the icing down of sprained ankles and relieving headaches from the home freezer ice tray.

Regular or Standard cube? I’ve tried to decipher the difference between these two terms of ice cube sizes, and it seems that there is varying opinion on this; I believe that standard cubes and regular cubes are pretty much equal or the same thing.

Commercial ice machine manufacturers all have their versions with slightly different sizes of ice cubes.

Manitowoc® commercial ice makers produce a regular ice cube. 

Three Regular/Standard melting ice cubes in rhomboid form/shape

A hard clear cube, rhomboid (pictured above) in shape, and is 1-⅛” X 1-⅛” X ⅞,” a and 100% ice to water ratio,

perfect for the mixing of drink recipes in a shaker.

Hoshizaki America Inc. Ice Machines produce a version they call a regular cube that measures 1” X 1” X 1-¼” also hard and crystal clear, ready to cool most drinks with a slow melt while not diluting.



Full Cubes

Wet one inch square ice cubes

Measuring ⅞” by ⅞” by ⅞”  the Ice-O-Matic® ice machine produces what they call the “Full cube,” and they are the perfect square cubes of ice. 

Manitowoc® commercial ice machine makes the same size cube and calls it the “The Dice.” 

Scotsman® makes the same size cube and calls theirs the “Medium cube” and measures the same as the two examples aboveHoshizaki America Inc. calls their full cube the “Square-cube,” and its dimensions are actually the one that isn’t a perfect square measuring 1” by 1” by 1-1/4”.



Half Cubes

Half cube ice

Known as half dice, small cube, half cube, Ideal for a drink, they fill the glass and provide more surface area for cooling than a glass filled with larger cubes.

While they cool the drink faster, they can dilute the drink quicker as they melt more quickly than a larger cube.

The half cube takes up more volume of the glass than a couple of full cubes would, and therefore not as much mixer or juice of some kind is needed to fill the glass.

Big Cubes

Bar man tongs Big Ice cube goblet of red wine

Big cubes of ice are just that, Big; at two inches by two inches, they’re the King of ice cubes; also known as ‘rocks cubes.’ 

These large cubes cool a fine whiskey or bourbon with little dilution and look great while they’re doing it.

Excellent for keeping bowls of punch chilled and pitchers of fruit juices ice cold.

The ice artisans like to cut their own big cubes; the uniqueness and originality of each cube lend to the final product.

You can purchase the molds to make your own big cubes for under ten dollars, or you can step up your game and purchase the molds to make clear cubes for around $40 U.S. (See Clear Ice below).

Slow melt rate

 Crescent Ice

Forty Crescent shaped ice cubes.


A ‘half cube,’ the crescent-shaped ice cube is a slower melter; it fills a glass (takes up more volume) better than a regular cube, and due to its unique shape, drink ingredients are less apt to splash compared to a square type cube when the product is poured over them. 

This crescent-shaped ice cube blends faster and easier in a food processor than a full cube.

Used in many commercial settings in self-serve dispensers because the crescent shape is less likely to jam and get stuck when dispensing than other forms of ice cubes.

Identified by its crescent moon shape and specific to the Hoshizaki Ice machine.

Crescent-shaped ice is widely used in restaurants, hotels, bars, and convenience stores.

Sonic Ice

Soft, easy to chew, and absorbs the drink’s flavor, many devoted fans look forward to getting their slushies / soft drinks at Sonic Drive-Ins as they offer “good ice,” as it has come to be known. 

See Nugget ice below.

Nugget Ice

Blue colored nugget ice drink straw lemon in glass

Nugget ice was developed by the ice machine manufacturer Scotsman® in 1981. Nugget Ice contains more air than most other forms of ice, making it less dense than most other forms, easier to chew, fun to crunch, and allows more of the flavors of the drink to penetrate the ice.



Nugget ice is also known as the candy of the ice world or the good ice and the best ice; it has developed quite a following since its inception. Also known as “Sonic Ice,” there are variations from other manufacturers known as Pellet ice, Cubelet ice, and Pearl Ice. 

Nugget ice close up

Nugget ice melts quicker than most ice as it is not as dense as other forms of ice. 

Choosing the right type of ice to match the drink and make a better cocktail is essential. For example, mint Juleps and Tiki drinks are delicious made with nugget ice.

Nugget ice is made from flaked ice that has been compacted, resulting in a  final product with the consistency of a packed snowball.


Nugget Ice was initially designed for use by patients in hospitals as a way to be able to help with their fluid intake, retain hydrating fluids, of course, to cool their drinks. 

Nugget ice is now used in many situations/applications in the home, restaurant industry, catering businesses, schools, and hospitals worldwide.

A pitcher of fruit juices with nugget ice on a hot summer’s day is pretty refreshing also.

Quick melt rate

Scotsman® offers the same excellent nugget ice in their line of home icemakers. 

Pebble Ice

Pebble ice

Pebble ice is typically made in a Lewis bag, starting with an ice cube and crushing it down to the desired size of a pebble. 

I have seen pebble ice referred to as nugget ice; it is not nugget ice, two different ice-making methods.

Crushed Ice

Crushed ice is ice cubes that are beaten (gently massaged) into small pieces; you can do this at home with a wooden mallet and a Lewis bag or a nice clean kitchen/bar towel.

Bin full of crushed ice

Crushed ice is very popular for drinks such as Mint Juleps and  Tiki drinks; some home bartenders prefer nugget ice for their Mint Julep over the crushed ice. 

Medium melt rate

Top Hat

This ice is of the “ gourmet ice” family, a slow melter resembling a top hat; this ice is often found in higher-end establishments.

Top Hat Ice in Goblet

Gourmet Ice

Four clear carved ice cubes

Gourmet ice is the cocktail ice typically used in high-end cocktail bars/lounges and upscale restaurants that serve high-end liquors; it includes ‘Top Hat,’ and an octagonal shaped form, and many times handcrafted cubes, spheres, etc.

With a near 100% ice to water ratio, it has a slow melt rate and the preferred ice for whiskeys and drinks such as the Manhattan due to the slow melt, little dilution, and the clarity of the ice.

Clear Ice

Who doesn’t like clear ice? It is aesthetically pleasing and being nearly 100% ice to water ratio, it melts slower in the glass creating less dilution of the drink it is meant to cool. 

Blue light illuminating large gourmet ice cubes

As a result, clear ice is the standard in finer clubs and lounges.


Larger metropolitan areas have specialty ice companies that make clear large ice cubes, spheres, and spheres and cater to upscale bars, restaurants, and home bar enthusiasts.

Clear ice is achieved by mimicking nature in the use of directional freezing. 

Blocks of clear ice

The trick to achieving a totally clear piece of ice at home is to interrupt the entire freezing process just before all the water freezes to avoid locking in the air bubbles and impurities in the last of the unfrozen water.



Using a smaller insulated cooler (Igloo) inside a home freezer, you can make your clear ice at home; various videos on YouTube show you how to do it.

Directional freezing is easy to understand; picture a pond that has begun to freeze; the topwater is exposed to the freezing winter air, the sides and bottom are not as cold as the air above and insulate the water.

As the top water continues to freeze, it moves air bubbles, minerals, and whatever else is in the water downward, leaving behind crystal-clear ice.

Using a smaller insulated cooler (Igloo) inside a home freezer, you can make your clear ice at home; various videos on YouTube show you how to do it.


Replicating the same freezing process in a pond, the water in the cooler is insulated from the freezing temperature on all four sides and the bottom but not on the top; various videos on YouTube show you how to do it.

Ice Spheres

Man putting frozen ice ball in to rocks glass with tongs

The Ice sphere, also known as an ice ball, is generally two inches in diameter and is excellent for keeping dilution down to a minimum when sipping a fine whiskey or other spirits you wouldn’t want to be watered down.


 Collins Spears

Used in a  Collins glass for long drinks such as a Tom Collins or even a Shirley Temple, they melt slowly and add a touch of cool to the cocktail.

Ice artisans like to create their own ice spears using a block of ice they’ve purchased or made themselves, but molds are available.

Using a serrated knife, they cut the ice into (roughly) 5” X 1” X 1” pieces.

Being one piece of solid ice, they fit nicely into a collins glass, and they cool the drink without much dilution and are pleasing to the eye.





Bullet Ice

Bullet ice is shaped like a bullet, round on one end and flat on the other with an opening making it hollow.

Bullet ice can cool down drinks quickly due to the extra surface contact between ice and beverage, also known as pearl ice due to its cloudy appearance.

Bullet ice is often used in the hotel industry ice dispensers and is a great choice for blended drinks where ice appearance isn’t an issue.

Cracked Ice

Probably “more show than go” you can create cracked ice by taking a cube of ice in the palm of one hand and with a bar spoon in the other; give the cube a quick rap or two with the backside of the spoon; results may vary.

Shave Ice

Lasy in green dress and shave ice desert

Blocks of ice shaved with a machine designed specifically for the purpose, resulting in fluffy snow-like ice, typically served as a treat dressed with flavored syrups and fruit. 

 Flake Ice

Flake Ice close up

Flake ice is “soft” ice that is great for the blended drink such as a pina colada, margarita, or daiquiri as it takes less time to mix than other forms of ice. 

Flake ice cools ingredients rapidly, speeds up prep time, and is easier on your blender than regular ice cubes.

Fast melt rate.

Flake ice is the first choice to cool seafood as its small size presents more surface area to the product and, therefore, quicker cooling than other ice forms such as cubes or block ice.


Flake ice is used in health care facilities and hospitals; the small size makes it easy to use in many different applications.

Large blocks of ice

Types of Block Ice

Ideal for making large cubes, spears, and other ice shapes artisans would want to create. There are two different types of block ice: one of compressed crushed ice and the other is a solid block frozen in a form. The latter is preferred for making ice for drinks.

Freshly cut from river/lake large blocks of ice

Block ice forms are available for those that want to make their own at home or, block ice is sold in many grocery stores and convenience stores.

To create your own ice spears, it is suggested that you have good counter space to operate, an ample enough cutting board, a serrated knife, a three-pronged ice pick to hold the ice still, and protective gloves.

Dry Ice

Six Martinis garnished with dry ice

Available from many grocery stores with identification showing the buyer is 18+ years old, dry ice is primarily used at Halloween time in drinks to add just a bit more “scary” to the festivities.

Dry ice can burn the skin and should be handled by adults only.

 Wet Ice

Wet ice cube

Ice that has been allowed to start to melt at room temperature is known as ‘wet ice’; wet ice will cool a drink quicker than ice that has not begun to melt; the dilution rate of the drink is sped up with wet ice.

Wet ice also will allow you to pour a soda pop into the glass filled with ice without it bubbling up and running all over the place.

Grocery Store Ice Cubes

Ice bags on cart man loading freezer

The average American buys four bags of ice per year, whether buying ice for your house party or stocking the cooler for a road trip, we buy a lot of ice.

Grocery store ice cubes are pretty acceptable if not making your own; the commercial ice manufacturing industry has been regulated by the Food and Drug Administration just as it would any other food product.

Typically you will find that if they move a lot of ice at the location, you purchase it from, the ice will be fresh, not a frozen lump, and clear.

I want to thank Reddy Ice for this very handy Ice Calculator.

History of Making Ice Cubes

The first known ice cubes made for consumption are attributed to Lloyd Groff Copeman.

It is said that one day while gathering sap for Maple syrup in 1928, Copeman noticed that ice/slush did not get stuck to the rubber of his boots.

Copeman designed several different styles of cups, rubber trays, metal trays with rubber separators.

Copeman went on to patent some of his ideas.

In 1933, Guy L. Tinkham made the first all-metal, flexible ice cube tray that released the cubes when flexed.

While still easy to use and reliable today, we’ve advanced beyond the old ice tray, and there are now plenty of options for different applications/recipes.

Commercial Icemakers

There are many versions of ice makers for commercial and home use.

You can get anything you want for home use, cubes, crushed, and even nugget ice, it’s available; it just depends on how much money you want to spend on ice.

I suggest going with one of the tried and true companies such as Frigidaire, or Scotsman, the makers of the original nugget ice, that they’ve made available for home use.

You will find their products for home use here: ScotsmanHomeIce




So there you have it, the 15 different types of ice/shapes of ice to cool and mix your drinks with; 

whether it’s mixing a pitcher of juice for the kids, a smoothie before work, alcoholic drinks on your summer patio, there are enough different ice types and different shapes of ice to fulfill most anyone’s needs. 

You don’t have to invest in an expensive machine either to achieve good ice; though there are a wide variety of ice makers available, stainless steel and silicone molds in many forms can be had with little investment; or you can just hop on down to the corner grocery store for a fresh bag of ice which is a great choice and avoid all the hoopla of making your own artisan ice cubes to impress your friends.

Thank you for reading!


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Hi and welcome! When I'm not writing, I can be found in the kitchen as I love to cook; when I'm not writing or cooking, I might be exercising my green thumb; and when I'm not doing any of those things... I might be on a day trip to the mountains or collecting agates on the beach, and sometimes I can be found just reading a book. Have a great day!

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