One of the key components to tiki or tropical cocktails is undoubtedly crushed ice. Crushed ice from a built in fridge/freezer is not going to work. It produces either very large chunks, or very small particles. And of course, it uses that cloudy tap water which most definitely has a chlorinated taste to it.
The home ice molds are problematic. They are not easy to fill, remove, and it takes forever to fill a small ice bucket. The plus side is that you can use whatever water you like. For me, I like my local spring water, but of course you can fill it with any of the fancy commercial brands out there like Poland Spring, Deer Park, Evian or Fiji. This is comforting because you know the purity, quality and taste of the ice you are using in your cocktails and drinks.
You can buy clear ice from the liquor store or supermarket and smash it with a mallet. They even sell a Lewis bags that you can crush them in. The problem with these is they need to be washed, and then your ice might end up smelling like detergent, or worse, mold, if you do not wash them.
They do make consumer ice machines which make pellet ice, but these easily run $350-500 or more. If you have a fast food place such as SONIC or Chick-Fil-A, this is the simplest, most economic solution. A bag will cost you $2-3 depending on your location, and some of it will melt on the ride home, even if you are just around 5 miles or 15 minutes away.
On the left you will see the SONIC ice, compared to the Chick-Fil-A on the right. The ones on the right are significantly larger, about three times the size of the SONIC on the left. Does this make a difference? You have to decide for yourself. However, I was nearly depressed when I found out my local SONIC place had been closed for a week or more (still not sure if they are out of business or what is going on). So, I turned to Chick-Fil-A, and honestly, while I did not like the appearance of larger pieces of ice, they made a better cocktail for me. They do not melt as fast, and they keep the drink colder longer, but not so cold that it freezes out the flavor of my Polynesian cocktail.
Back to the subject of water, quality, purity and taste. I wrote to the people at SONIC over a year ago. I wanted to know where they get their water from. Is it local tap water? Is it filtered? And most importantly, how often is the ice machine cleaned? I got a reply, but it was lame at best. They sent a form reply stating “thank you for your feedback”. Feedback? What feedback? I asked a simple question. I didn’t make a comment, good, bad, or indifferent. I sent another reply to that email and never heard back. I asked Chick-Fil-A the same question on Twitter since they provide no feedback form. As of today, I have not gotten an answer.
I rarely, if ever, eat fast food. And this might be a very good reason. If they cannot answer a simple question about water, how would they even address where they get their food from, if its been treated with hormones, which country, etc etc etc. It is a scary thought. Water should be an easy answer, but not in this case.