How To Make Clear Ice Cubes For Cocktails

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Using exceptional liquors and alcohol is an obvious way to elevate your cocktail. But, focusing on the finer details, like using crystal clear ice cubes, can be equally impressive.

Read on to learn how you can elevate your cocktails and make crystal clear ice cubes at home! Your guests will love it, and you’ll be surprised by how simple the entire process is. 

Are clear ice cubes a thing? 

Yes absolutely! Clear ice cubes are a way for a restaurant and bar to show their patrons that they know their stuff. Serving a beautiful cocktail with crystal clear ice cubes is a show-stopping move that is very beautiful too (see: Old Fashioned with stunningly clear ice below!). 

Clear ice cubes will also have a slower melting rate, which can significantly affect a cocktail. If an ice cube melts too quickly, like very cloudy ice cubes tend to do, the beverage can become over diluted, and the taste is affected. 

Making clear ice cubes takes more time and strong attention to detail. The process almost feels like a chemistry assignment, but it is easier than you think! Follow the steps below to learn how you can make clear ice cubes at home. 

Step 1: Try to create pure water at home 

The most beautiful crystal clear frozen lakes and ponds of the world contain pure water. Pure water has not been filtered, altered, or chemically touched in any way. Naturally frozen pure water is exceptionally clear when temperatures rapidly plummet outside. 

You will need to start with distilled water

If you use tap water, it can be very difficult to emulate pure water in your kitchen. You will need to purchased liters of distilled water to make crystal clear ice. If this is your first time making clear ice cubes, you may want to buy a couple of different brands of distilled water. Then after a few rounds of making ice, you will know for sure which brand is most reliable. 

Boil your water

Whether you use distilled water or tap water, you will need to boil the liquid twice. Bring your water to a boil and leave it uncovered. Allow the water to reach a bubbling boil for at least 10 minutes before removing it from the heat. Before you repeat the process, you will need to let your boiled cool down to room temperature without relying on a fridge or freezer.

You may choose to cover your water at this point to prevent any debris or dust particles from accidentally floating into the water. The cooldown may take 1-2 hours, so plan your schedule around ice-making accordingly.

After the water has cooled, repeat the process and bring it up to a second boil. Once again the water must cool to room temperature, then you can start the freezing process.

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Step 2: Nail directional freezing 

Directional freezing is the art of freezing your ice on one side first, which will then push any cloudy substances in one direction. It may sound confusing, but it can be better explained by thinking of freezing happening from the top down. 

The top of the ice cube tray is the most exposed part of the tray, and it should freeze first. The frozen mass will push down all the cloudy bits to the bottom of the tray, which will freeze last. The bottom portion of the ice cube can be chiseled, and isolated cloudy remnants can be removed.

Try slow freezing

Taking your time to slowly freeze ice will give the water the most opportunity to thoroughly freezer layer by layer. It will pushy and cloudy parts to the bottom, and is a very easy way to practice directional freezing. 

You can start by turning your freezer down, so it is set to its coldest temperature possible. Try to remove any frozen foods or bagged items that will be on the same shelf as your ice cube tray. 

Fill your ice cube mold with your homemade pure water, and set it in the freezer overnight. Depending on the size of your mold, it may take several hours for the water to freeze completely. Be prepared to wait 8-24 hours before you take the ice mold out of the freezer. 

Igloo Cooler Freezing

To use this method, you need to have enough space in your freezer to fit a small cooler. If you do not have room for this item, you may want to stick with the first method of directional freezing. 

Remove the lid from your cooler and set it aside, you will not need it for this method. Fill the cooler with your homemade pure water, do not fill the cooler above the halfway point. Place it in the freezer and allow the process to begin. 

You will need to practice the timing, but try to remove the cooler from the freezer before the ice block is completely frozen. You know you are ready to take the cooler out when most of the block is clear, but there is still unfrozen water at the bottom. If you let that water freeze, you would have a cloudy block of ice. 

The igloo cooler method creates large blocks of clear ice that can be cut into unique shapes for your cocktails. If you are talented with an ice pick and a chisel, you may even create sculptures or centerpieces with this block. 

Small-Scale Freezing 

We all do not have space in our freezers for a cooler. Instead, you can use a baking pan or a freezer-safe dish to create clear ice. You will need to purchase a flexible ice mold and poke holes through each compartment. 

Prop the mold up 1 inch from the bottom of the tray and fill it with your homemade pure water. The cloudy portion of water should naturally work its way through the holes and will fill the bottom of the pan. Your ice cubes should be crystal clear!  

Buy an Ice Machine 

Busy restaurants and bars do not spend time using directional freezing methods. Instead, they purchase commercial ice machines that have been engineered to create clear ice cubes. These machines are incredibly efficient and are perfectly calibrated to create consistent results. 

If you own catering business, or if you entertain a lot at home, you may consider buying one of these machines. If you are a cocktail enthusiast and just love having clear ice, you may benefit from trying to make your own first. These ice machines are expensive, and they take up a lot of counter space. 

Final Thoughts

There are a handful of methods available to you if you are interested in making clear ice cubes at home. The biggest expense will be your time because you cannot rush these ice cubes! 

If you have a large upcoming event or can’t be bothered to wait around for ice cubes to freeze, you may consider investing in an ice maker. These machines are reliable and will save you hours in the kitchen.