In the golden age of cocktails (the mid to late 19th century) ice was harder to come by as refrigeration technology was new to non-existent (depending where you lived). Only the best of establishments had the best of ice, usually delivered in large, very cold blocks from which the bartender would chip off clumps with an ice pick. This made well-crafted cocktails much more of a valued commodity than they are today. As ice became a taken-for-granted part of everyday life, and as the skill and art behind making cocktails disappeared, bars just began to use whatever was cheapest and easiest. This meant small, watery ice, and the drinks suffered (and still do) because of it.
[photo: ice harvesters, circa 1912, New York State Archives]
[post originally published on pourhousevancouver.com]