You may (or may not) know how this nightmare goes. You’re at a party, and after rummaging around the kitchen looking for a drink, you convince somebody making cocktails to stir you up a piece of perfection. Whether it be a margarita with fresh lime and Cointreau, a crisp vodka tonic or an exotic creation with some kind of herb, you’re set. You get to chatting, and then WTF! In what seems like minutes, your drink is warm and dull. The ice has already melted!
What can be done about this travesty? I started wondering which ice cubes last the absolute longest, and did some research. The answer: giant balls!
Ice cubes are trendy these days, coming in all sorts of shapes and sizes. You can even get ice cubes shaped like guitars and Legos. I think it’s safe to say nobody likes those tiny ice bits that shoot out of some refrigerators. They’re gone the second they hit the drink. Might as well just add cool water.
Why do the ice bits melt faster than the big spheres? You may have guessed already — it has to do with surface area. All those ice bits have a much greater combined surface area than a single sphere. That means more of the ice surface is exposed to warmer temperatures, which causes the melting.
Water molecules in ice are more tightly bound than those in liquid or air. They’re bonded together like a bunch of hippie dancers holding hands. When they feel the heat, they jiggle around and the strongest of bonds are broken. But don’t worry, the molecules are still full of peace and love as they flow around in a fluid.
Those big square ice cubes are also a better deal than the ice bits, but they can’t beat the spheres. A cube has more surface area per volume than a ball, so it would melt faster. Science is everywhere, even in your jalapeño margarita.