If you don’t know by now, nugget ice is the term for the small, semi soft, nubby-textured chunks of ice that absorb flavor and amplify your drink. It has a cult following due in no small part to Sonic’s cherry limeade—but it’s also excellent for cocktails.
Why? The textured ice softens overly harsh or sweet flavors. In cocktails, nugget ice easily surpasses crushed ice: Crushed ice is made from broken-down cubes, but nugget ice is made from compressed ice flakes which results in chewy, semi-soft, nubby-textured “nuggets.”
The same air pockets that make the ice so deliciously chewable also helps your drink absorb into the nuggets, making insanely addictive, flavored ice chunks. Bonus: They melt more slowly than crushed ice, since they have less surface area, ensuring you’ll have ice left to chew on once you’ve finished sipping your beverage.
TLDR: Nugget ice makes the best cocktails, and here are 10 recipes. Make sure to chomp down the ice after.
1. Mint Julep
The most classic of nugget ice cocktails, the mint julep is excellent well beyond Derby day. Made with bourbon, sugar, and mint, this strong sipper does well with the addition of nugget ice to wonderfully mellow out the strong whiskey.
2. Cherry Limeade
Sonic diehards all but pioneered the nugget ice craze. This copycat recipe of their iconic cherry limeade will have you thinking you’re at the drive-in, any time of year. Step it up with a splash of unflavored vodka.
3. Sparkling Watermelon Lemonade
It’s never too early to start thinking about your new signature summer cocktail. This sparkling drink is loaded with fresh watermelon and lemon. Spike it with a cup of unflavored vodka for a boozy treat.
4. Girl Scout Cocktail
With Crème de Cacao, mint liqueur, and actual Thin Mints, this nugget-ice filled cocktail is kind of the ultimate a sweet treat.
5. Strawberry Screwdriver
Strawberry, orange, and vodka mingle in this gussied-up classic. It calls for strawberry simple syrup, which as you might have guessed, is super simple to make—and makes a huge difference.
This classic Brazilian cocktail, is made with cachaça, sugar, and lime. Pour it over nugget ice for a drink that will make you swear you’re on the beaches in Rio.
7. Classic Mojito
You can make a classic Mojito with light rum, lime juice, fresh muddled mint and sparkling water, or you can step it up with our own rosé mojito recipe. Sub ice cubes with nugget ice, of course.
8. Lemon Rosemary Gin Fizz
With just a few ingredients, this drink is as simple as it gets, but fresh lemon and rosemary give a fresh, sophisticated vibe. Nugget ice helps to mellow out the strong flavors.
9. Strawberry Basil Moscow Mule
This traditional Moscow Mule has vodka, fizzy ginger beer and lime, that gets an oomph from fresh strawberries and muddled basil.
10. Blackberry Bourbon Smash
A bourbon smash without nugget ice is all but pointless. This smash recipe gets dressed up by mint and blackberries.