Mixologist reveals the biggest mistake you're making with your cocktails

Do you love to play home bartender? Nothing can be more fun than inviting your friends over for drinks, whether it be for tried-and-true classics like an old-fashioned and whiskey sour, or fun summertime frozen drinks like daiquiris or boozy popsicles. Maybe you even go all-out and make super-complex tiki drinks served up in cool, kitschy barware. You've undoubtedly invested in the finest of mixers and liquors, whether your cocktail budget runs to top-shelf booze or more moderately-priced (but still surprisingly decent) store brands like Kirkland Signature.

Perhaps you know all about how to eyeball a pour, you can tell the difference between a shot, a nip, and a jigger, and you even know when to stir and when to shake (the latter being when you're fixing a martini for James Bond, of course). While you may have mad mixology skills, it's possible you could still inadvertently be ruining those otherwise perfect drinks. Thankfully we had the chance to speak with Craig Schoettler, Executive Director of Beverages at MGM Resorts, to guide us and prevent some common mixology mishaps. Schoettler revealed that the biggest mistake you can make with your cocktails involves using the wrong kind of ice — here's what he suggests.

Why bigger ice cubes are better

How can ice make such a big difference, you may be wondering? Schoettler is adamant that "Ice is the backbone of most cocktails and plays an important role in mixology." Ok, so seeing how ice is so important, what kind of ice is the wrong kind? Schoettler says many home bartenders mess up when they use ice cubes that are too small. As he explains, "When adding ice to shake or stir a cocktail, the larger the better. As you increase the mass of the ice, it melts slowly – allowing the dilution rate to be easily managed and retaining its ability to make the drink as cold as possible."

So what could go wrong if you use ice cubes that are too small? You run the risk of serving watery drinks, that's what. Schoettler specifically warns against making this mistake, cautioning that, "Small, less dense ice will likely over dilute the drink and melt before it's cold."

How to improve your ice

Luckily, the ice problem is one that's easy enough to solve. You can purchase relatively inexpensive ice cube trays meant to make oversize cubes, although VinePair suggests that such mega-cubes are only really necessary for spirits-forward drinks. In most cases, they say, a standard one-inch cube should suffice, as long as you pack the glass tightly enough so the ice cubes do not float, although there are other instances in which you're going to want crushed, cracked, or pebbled ice.

You should also ensure that — whatever sort of ice you use — your cubes are made with fresh water. Never dilute your drink with nasty old cubes that have been kicking around the freezer picking up the faint taste of fish sticks. Ice is, after all, one-third of your drink, and deserves as much attention as the liquor, the mixers, the garnishes, and anything else you put in the glass.