Clear ice is more than just a novelty act. It's a game-changer for cocktail enthusiasts aiming to elevate their drinking experience. And it’s easier to make clear ice at home than you might think.
Ice is more than an afterthought in drink recipes. It’s an ingredient that impacts the flavor, as well as the temperature, of your cocktail or mocktail. Shaking or stirring your drink with ice adds in a small amount of water as the ice melts slightly.
Unlike the cloudy ice your kitchen freezer makes, using clear ice enhances both the aesthetics and purity of your beverages, ensuring that your carefully crafted cocktails and mocktails look as good as they taste.
Why Use Clear Ice
- Visual Appeal: Clear ice adds a touch of sophistication to your drinks, allowing the colors and textures of your cocktails to shine through. It's visually stunning and enhances the overall presentation, making your home bar drinks feel like they came from a fancy cocktail lounge.
- Pure Flavor: Impurities and air trapped in cloudy ice can affect the taste of your drinks. Using clear ice, especially when sipping expensive bourbons or whiskeys, ensures a clean and unaltered flavor.
- Slower Melting: Clear ice melts more slowly than its cloudy counterpart, preventing dilution and maintaining the integrity of your drink for a longer period of time.
Making Clear Ice at Home
Achieving clear ice at home isn’t difficult, but you will need a specially insulated ice mold. You can not achieve clear ice in a standard ice cube tray or ice mold. Clear ice comes from the water freezing slowly combined with the impurities in the water having a way to settle out of the cubes. You need insulation and separation around the ice cube mold to make that happen.
Pour filtered water into the mold. The slow freezing process - thanks to the insulation - encourages the ice to freeze from the top down, pushing impurities and air bubbles downward. The result is a crystal clear set of ice cubes.
Troubleshooting Homemade Clear Ice
- Use filtered or distilled water for creating your clear ice cubes. This is especially important if you use a water softener for your tap water. The salt the water softener puts into your tap water needs to be filtered out before making your cubes or you’ll end up with cloudy ice cubes.
- Follow the timing on the ice mold’s instructions. Most will have you leave the mold in the freezer for 16-20 hours. Start checking it at 16 hours by slowly tipping the ice cube mold back and forth, watching for air bubbles and water to move at the bottom of the cubes. If you see any movement of any kind, put it back in the freezer for at least another hour.
- Unmold your ice cubes over the sink. If you timed it right, the ice cubes will be sold, but the water in the tray beneath them will still be liquid.
Storing Homemade Clear Ice Cubes
Do not store your ice cubes in their mold or leave them in the ice mold for days until you’re ready to use them. Eventually all of the water in the mold will freeze making it nearly impossible to remove your clear cubes without ruining them.
Once you remove your clear ice cubes, store them in a plastic container or resealable bag in the freezer until you want to use them. They’ll keep about a month when stored this way.
Using Clear Ice in Your Drinks
When you decide to use your ice - especially large ice cubes or ice spheres - place the ice in the glass before you begin mixing your cocktail. You want to give the ice a little time to temper and slowly get used to the air around it. This will prevent your ice from cracking or splitting when you pour your cocktail over it.
Note: Tempering the ice is especially important if you’re pouring a room temperature spirit - like bourbon or whiskey - directly from the bottle into your glass.
Buying Clear Ice
Don’t want to mess with making clear ice? Want smaller clear ice instead of large, clear cubes? Head to the grocery store or gas station and buy a bag of ice. While not uniform in shape, commercially made ice will be clear when you put it in liquid. This is what I use for almost all of my cocktail and mocktail photoshoots.
If you want small ice cubes (specifically cube shaped), try your nearest Whole Food store. Many sell bags of “cocktail ice” which are smaller, clear ice cubes.
Benefits of Using Extra Large Ice Cubes
Most of the clear ice molds made for home use are for extra-large shapes - cubes or spheres.
Using extra-large ice cubes serves as an extension of the clear ice concept, offering additional advantages for cocktail enthusiasts:
- Slower Dilution: Larger ice cubes melt more slowly, reducing the risk of over-dilution in your drinks. This is particularly beneficial for spirit-forward cocktails like an Old Fashioned or Negroni.
- Improved Chilling: Large ice cubes efficiently chill your drink while maintaining a more consistent temperature, enhancing the overall drinking experience.
- Aesthetics: Just like clear ice, extra-large cubes add a touch of elegance to your glass, creating a visually appealing element in your cocktails.
Incorporating clear ice and extra-large cubes into your home bartending routine is a simple yet impactful way to enhance the quality, visual appeal, and overall enjoyment of your favorite beverages.
Whether you're a casual cocktail enthusiast or a seasoned mixologist, clear ice is a clear winner in the pursuit of the perfect drink.