Cubed, crushed, crescent, and even nugget-shaped ice all serve a particular purpose to the beverages in which they’re served, and spherical ice, one of the fancier varieties, is no different.
This trendy ice shape has become so popular, in fact, that LG sells a home refrigerator that specifically makes and dispenses “craft ice.” LG boasts that its “exclusive” craft ice is slow-melting, helping all your drinks taste their best. The funny thing is, LG is essentially taking credit for what all round ice does, thanks to science.
The first thing that sphere-shaped ice has going for it, and perhaps the reason it’s taken off as a cocktail trend, is that it just looks cool in a glass. Something about the way that this one huge chunk of ice takes up the center of the glass, peeking out over the top of your beverage, just draws the eye. It’s no wonder you can find so many ice molds to make your own at home. And...it’s spherical! (Apologies if you don’t understand the reference there, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to use it).
The more practical advantage to a single ball of ice, as opposed to a cube, is that the sphere has less surface area and just as much volume as a large cube. What this means is that less surface area will be exposed to the cocktail (or whatever liquid is in the cup), and the ice will thus melt slower. This also means the temperature of the ball of ice will chill the drink while diluting it much slower than regular ice would.
The slow dilution is what makes ice balls best for drinks like an old fashioned or most other whiskey-based drinks. For those who truly love a whiskey and take it plain on the rocks, a sphere-shaped ice in the glass will allow them to sip and enjoy without water interrupting the flavor experience. Really, though, you can plop a round ice cube in any drink you want and the benefits will be the same.
There’s one downside to the ice ball drink. Do you know that moment when you go to take a gulp of your beverage and as you tilt the glass toward your face, a big mound of ice cubes comes barreling toward your mouth and nose? Before you know, it you’ve unexpectedly got a face full of ice and soda dripping down your chin. With a whole ball of ice in the center of your glass, that same phenomenon can occur, but with a bigger, heavier smack to the face. So it’s best to use sphere ice in drinks that you don’t gulp, but rather nurse. Beyond that, though, go nuts. It’s spherical!