It’s ice—don’t overthink it, right? Not when it comes to cocktails. If you like making shaken cocktails at home, having the right amount of ice, and the right size ice cube, will be the difference between a drink that leaves you missing the bar to one that will keep you from ever going back. (Well, we never say never, but you get the idea.) It’s also important that you take your shaking seriously.

Jeffrey Morgenthaler, author of “The Bar Book,” told us that Americans generally don’t understand the purpose of shaking and tend to stop way too soon. But ice regulates itself, he says, so you don’t have to worry about overdoing it. Once the drink gets cold enough, ice doesn’t really melt anymore.

Shaking also takes the weight off other ingredients, such as juices and egg whites, by creating aerated cocktails full of tiny bubbles. Those air bubbles are key to a perfectly frothy cocktail. (Froth is simply a light foam—gas bubbles dispersed in a liquid.)

Here are five golden rules to up your game behind the bar:

  • “Get as much ice as you think you need, and maybe triple it,” Morgenthaler says.
  • Then shake it like you mean it—for 10 to 15 seconds. Don’t stop too soon. (We’re fans of the Boston shaker, which consists of two cups, one smaller and one larger.)
  • The ice is as cold as the freezer it is stored in. So for colder drinks, turn your freezer down.
  • Size matters, too. Because of differences in surface area, small ice cools drinks faster than larger pieces. So it's best to use small pieces of ice to cool a cocktail faster while shaking.
  • But switch to larger ice cubes in the glass so that the cocktail will dilute more slowly.

That said, a little melting isn't entirely bad. Cocktails benefit from a bit of dilution. Slightly reducing the proof of a liquor allows us to better taste its many other flavors (rather than just the alcohol). So, don’t fear the ice—just know how to use what size ice cube when. Cheers!