Search the Site

Our Daily Bleg: How Much Ice Is Too Much?

A reader named Ben Muschel of Flushing, N.Y. (that’s where Citi Field is), writes in with a question that he admits is trivial:

I often enjoy getting sodas from 7-11. Though I’m aware the markup on fountain soda is quite high, I still consider a “Big Gulp” a pretty good bang for my buck. My constant quandary, however, is the question of how much ice to add to my soda. On the one hand, I don’t want to waste valuable soda space with space-consuming ice. On the other hand, it feels like it should take more than one or two cubes to successfully cool a 32-oz. soda (or the occasional 44-oz. “Super Big Gulp”). But is that true? And to what extent? Is there a specific — or minimum — quantity of ice needed to chill a drink to what could be considered a “standard level of coolness” given the total liquid volume of the drink? Or is any ice beyond the first few cubes a waste of my cup space?

Please give Ben any advice you can. To my mind, there are at least three considerations.
1. It may be a mistake to assume that the soda is more costly than the ice.
2. Since there are more than 500 calories in a 44-oz. non-diet soda, from a public-health perspective it is best to load the entire cup with ice and then squirt in a little bit of soda. (New York City has just begun a soda-as-human-fat public relations campaign; reminds me a bit of this.)
3. The big issue with ice, to me at least, isn’t quantity; it’s quality. Most commercial establishments dispense a loose, sloshy, barely-frozen ice that has a high melt rate and therefore instantly begins diluting your drink. Compare that to a good old-fashioned ice cube that comes from the freezer in your refrigerator. Good ice is much more costly to make but, if I were as concerned as Ben is about his dilemma, I’d be pursuing a revolution in quality commercial ice rather than trying to find the right ratio of soda to slush. Much like phone fidelity, ice quality seems to be a victim of progress. Maybe we should get back to making our ice this way.