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How To Make Clear Ice

Step-by-step instructions for quality clear ice at home.

clear ice cocktail

A great cocktail can be identified by three key elements: fresh ingredients, good alcohol and cubes that are as cold as the Antarctic. If you’re a cocktail enthusiast who wants to elevate your game, you know you probably shouldn’t just keep putting your average freezer ice into your drinks. 

There are many benefits to making sure your ice freezes clear and hard, and for the home mixologist it may be easier (and less expensive) than you think.

Why Make Clear Ice For Cocktails?

Aside from an elegant looking cocktail, there are key benefits to taking the time (and a few extra steps) to making clear ice for cocktails. 

1. It’s Pure Water

The main benefit of clear ice is that it’s free from any pollutants or impurities. The filtration and freezing process removes any minerals or air bubbles that may be in the water.

2. It Melts More Slowly

Since clear ice is a perfectly solid, packed with only water molecules - it can maintain its low temperature longer — unlike your regular, at home, frozen cubes, which reaches room temperatures faster due to the air bubbles that are trapped in them. 

3. It Tastes Great

Whether you use distilled or tap water, clear ice tastes better. Because it’s pure water without the extra air, it’s essentially tasteless and doesn’t pick up any “other” flavors from your home freezer.

Clear Ice Myths

Clear ice has some speculation surrounding it. The truth? Water adjustments alone will not change the ice in your tray or mold to ‘clear’ ice. The way you freeze your ice is really the way to get clear ice - not necessarily the process of purifying the water you start with. 

Myth #1: Using distilled or bottled water will produce clear ice

Repeat after us: using distilled water in your regular ice cube tray will not yield clear ice. We repeat: using distilled water in your regular ice cube tray will not yield clear ice. And not all bottled water is distilled- go figure. While using distilled water, with the correct freezing method, will increase your chances of yielding clear ice - distilling water alone will not yield the results you seek. 

Myth #2: Boiling or double boiling water results in clear ice

Boiling or double boiling your water (tap or distilled) will reduce air bubbles in the water - but again without the correct freezing method it will not yield clear ice on it’s own. 

What Is Directional Freezing?

Directional Freezing is a simple method to make clear ice by controlling the direction the water freezes. It allows water to freeze into ice from one direction and the ice to be clear until the very last part is almost frozen. Traditionally this method is done by freezing water inside a cooler (with the lid removed).

How To Make Clear Ice Cubes

Step 1

Get a hard-sided, insulated cooler (one that will fit in your freezer). Remove the lid. Fill it with water about ¾ full. Put it in the freezer, leaving the lid removed.

Step 2

After 12–24 hours, remove the ice just before it’s totally frozen. Let it sit long enough that the ice melts a little, about 5 to 30 minutes. Then flip it over and let the ice slide out.

Step 3

Put the ice on a cookie sheet or cutting board, and use an ice pick to break it off any excess pieces.

Step 4

Use a serrated knife and cleaver to lightly tap into cubes or slice into desired shapes with an ice saw

Step 5

Immediately put cubes into your cocktails or save in a ziplock bag in the freezer.

How To Make Clear Ice Spheres

Step 1

Get a hard-sided, insulated cooler (one that will fit in your freezer with the lid removed), a tall cocktail shaker tin and a sphere shaped ice cube mold.

Step 2

Fill the cooler with water about ¾ full, fill the shaker tin with water about ¾ full and fill up the ice sphere mold to the top.

Step 3

Put the water-filled sphere mold upside down in the water-filled shaker tin. Put the shaker/sphere mold unit into the corner of the water-filled cooler. Freeze the trio together in the freezer, leaving the lid removed from the cooler.

Step 4

After 12–24 hours, remove the cooler just before it’s ice is totally frozen. Let it sit long enough that the ice melts a little, about 5 to 30 minutes. Remove the shaker/sphere mold unit from the block of ice.

Step 5

Remove the sphere mold from the shaker tin. You will have your clear ice sphere.

Step 6

Break apart the larger cube and freeze for later use, they will also be clear!


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