Clear ice cubes make the most impressive cocktails! After lots of research, we found the very BEST method for how to make clear ice.
Looking for how to make clear ice for cocktails? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve spent hours researching the best way to do it, and found an easy method that works every time! Here’s exactly what you need to do to make the beautiful, crystal clear ice sphere you see in that cocktail glass above.
Why spend the time making clear ice? Well, that’s what I asked Alex when he told me he wanted to create this method. Clear ice? It can’t be that cool, can it? Well, color me impressed when I saw the first cocktail he made with it. The glistening artisanal ice cubes are incredibly beautiful to look at, and make any cocktail look simply stunning. It’s the perfect party trick to impress your guests: and they’ll feel like 1 million bucks drinking it. Here’s our simple method.
How to make clear ice: a tutorial
Here’s the basic idea behind how to make clear ice. Normal ice cubes are frozen from all sides at the same time. This results in uneven freezing, which makes less perfect ice formations and traps all air and particles in the center of the cube. By freezing water in a cooler, you force the water to freeze directionally: from the top down. This allows for the ice to form perfect crystals: crystal clear ice! All of the dissolved air and particles end up in the water beneath the ice block.
Step 1: Freeze warm water in a cooler for 18 to 24 hours.
Find a small cooler that fits inside your freezer. Then fill the cooler with 4 to 5 inches of warm tap water. Make sure the water is not hot! Place the cooler inside your freezer with the lid off. That’s it! Freeze the cooler for 18 to 24 hours until several inches of the water have frozen. You’ll want to still have some water left under the ice, which prevents the ice from getting cloudy.
Here’s what it will look like at this point. You’ll see that our ice does have a few crystals on the outside edge: you can discard anything that’s too frosty. Or use it, if you don’t care (like us!).
Step 2: Remove the ice from the cooler.
When the block ice is ready, remove it from the cooler to get ready to get it into cubes. To do so, place the cooler upside down in the sink for 5 to 10 minutes. The ice block may fall out on its own. Or, give it a gentle shake to pop it out of the cooler.
Step 3: Cut the ice into cubes with a serrated knife.
Here’s where it gets fun! You’ll use a serrated knife to cut the ice into the desired size of chunks. It will be less about cutting and more about scoring the ice so that it snaps off. Here’s what to do:
- Hold the ice with a towel or oven mitt.
- Cut out a strip of ice: lightly score the top of the ice with a serrated knife, sliding the knife back and forth until a strip of the ice snaps off.
- Use the same scoring method to cut the strip into cubes.
Step 3: Shape the clear ice chunks with an ice pick (optional).
For any ice you plan to serve right away, you can use an ice pick to hone the final shape. There’s a whole art to shaping ice that we won’t pretend to be experts in! We use an ice pick to hone the shape into what you see in the pictures: like to make an ice sphere or to simply fit it into the glass. See the section below on shaping ice for more info!
Step 4: Store the clear ice.
Store any ice you’re not planning to use immediately in the freezer in a closed container, where it keeps indefinitely. But important! Before using the frozen ice in a drink, allow the ice cube to sit at room temperature to temper it for 2 minutes. This prevents cracking. It also allows the outer layer (and any freezer burn) to melt off of the ice.
Or, use a clear ice maker!
Don’t want to bother with the cooler method? There’s (finally) an invention for that: a clear ice maker! We bought this ClearlyFrozen Home Clear Ice Maker to test it against our homemade method. It works great!
It’s just as easy to use, and it’s smaller than the cooler so it easily fits in the freezer. The only drawback is that it makes cubes, not large sheets you can cut into organic shapes (which is what we prefer for our cocktails). Speaking of…
Cocktails made perfect with clear ice!
Ready to serve your clear ice? So many cocktails are made more perfect with clear ice in the glass. Here’s a list of cocktails we’ve made lately and photographed using clear ice (click over to see the photos):
- Classic Margarita
- Simple Lemon Margarita
- Sea Breeze Cocktail
- Salty Dog Cocktail
- Classic Mojito
- Tom Collins
Alternate method: how to make clear ice cubes
Those artisanal ice spheres are simply stunning, aren’t they? Luckily, that’s the easiest method and our primary path for how to make clear ice. This is the method Alex uses to make clear ice when we want to make it for cocktails. However, what if you want to make clear ice cubes that are perfectly spherical?
Well, we’ve got a method for that too! Since way to make clear ice for cocktails requires a bit more special equipment and requires a little more effort, we recommend the primary path above. But if you like the look of these ice cubes, here’s how we did this version:
- Use a silicone ice cube tray with holes punched into bottom of each cube. Place the ice cube tray on a small riser inside of your small cooler (we used cookie cutters).
- Fill the cooler so the warm water just barely covers the ice cube tray.
- Place the cooler in the freezer and wait 15 to 20 hours until several inches have frozen.
- Remove the ice by placing the cooler upside down in sink for 5 to 10 minutes, then gently shaking the ice block out.
- There will be a large block of ice around the ice tray, which you can break off with an ice pick or your hands and use for block ice.
- Pop the cubes out of the silicone tray. Perfectly clear ice cubes, ready for action!
Tips on how to shape clear block ice
For the purposes of this article: anything goes with shaping your ice! It’s definitely an art form that some bartenders take to a very high level. This method is intended for home cooks who want to up their cocktail game, so we won’t provide an in-depth shaping resource. However, here are a few tips:
- Use an ice pick. An ice pick makes for those beautiful irregular edges. It helps to fit the ice into the glass. Here’s the ice pick that we use.
- Watch the masters. Want to make an ice sphere? Here’s a video on how the professionals do it.
- Study up. Here’s an article on the best ice for each type of cocktail.
Troubleshooting clear ice: what if it doesn’t turn out perfectly clear?
Many online sources recommend using distilled, filtered, or boiled water in ice cube trays. Alex and I tested all of these methods, and here’s what we found: generally, this will not result in fully clear ice! So luckily, you don’t have to bother with this in our method.
That said: if for some reason you don’t get perfectly clear ice using our method, you can experiment with filtered or boiled (and cooled) water in the cooler! This may reduce dissolved air or particulates.Print
How to Make Clear Ice
- Prep Time: 24 hours
- Cook Time: 0 hours
- Total Time: 24 hours
- Yield: 1 bunch clear ice
Clear ice cubes make the most impressive cocktails! After lots of research, we found the very BEST method for how to make clear ice. Note: This results in large chunks of ice. If you’re interested in making clear ice cubes, see the section above.
- Small cooler that fits in your freezer*
- Warm tap water
- Freeze the ice (24 hours): Fill the small cooler with 4 to 5 inches of warm tap water (making sure it is not hot). Place the cooler in the freezer with the lid off. Freeze for 18 to 24 hours until several inches have frozen. You’ll want to still have some water left under the ice (this prevents the ice from getting cloudy).
- Remove the ice: Place the cooler upside down in the sink for 5 to 10 minutes. Then gently shake the ice block out (or it may fall out on its own).
- Cut the ice into cubes: Place the ice block on a cutting board. Then use a serrated knife to cut the ice into the desired size of chunks by doing the following: Hold the ice with a towel or oven mitt and lightly score the top with the knife until a strip of the ice snaps off. Then cut that strip into cubes.
- Shape with ice pick (optional): If you’d like, you can use an ice pick to hone the final shape (see the section above).
- Store the ice: Store the ice in the freezer in a closed container. Before using the ice in a drink, allow the ice cube to sit at room temperature to temper it for 2 minutes to prevent cracking. Tempering the ice also allows the outer layer (and any freezer burn) to melt off of the ice.
*You can also use this Clear Ice Maker, which creates large clear ice cubes. Follow the package instructions.
Method adapted from Alcademics
- Category: Drinks
- Method: Frozen
- Cuisine: Cocktails
Keywords: How to make clear ice,
A big THANK YOU for finally giving us the way to make clear ice. I’ve been trying to do this for years, and now I’ve got the secret. It works beautifully and now I’ve got more clear ice cubes than I need. Next I’m trying making clear ice spheres, but I’m sure this technique will work. I’m looking forward to using this technique on more ice carvings and sharing the secret with GOOD friends.
So glad it’s working for you! Now you just need to work on those hand carving skills: https://youtu.be/yNSfUc_r-ZY?t=44
Do you put the the cover on the cooler or just leave the top of the water exposed?
Just leave it exposed!
What difference does it make using warm water versa hot water?
Also, why punch holes in the bottom of the silicon ice cube trays? One hole per cube or multiple?
The hole in the bottom allows for expansion of the ice. We have found various degrees of warmth don’t make too much of a difference.
Easier solution. Call around to find an ice retailer who sells Kold Draft Ice. My company sold millions of pounds of it over the last 50+ years in St Louis. Search it on the net, it’s much easier than the listed procedure.
Ladue Market, inc.
You shouldn’t ingest water from a water heater, not healthy. I would never use water that’s been sitting in my water heater to make ice cubes. Better to use cold water and warm on stove. I currently use bottled water.
Why is water from a water heater unhealthy? It’s just a tank heated by a gas flame. Or electric.
No different from a tea kettle or a pot on the stove.
Actually, hot water heaters use an anode (usually lead) to slow the rusting process of the tank. The result is that hot water tank water often has higher than safe to consume levels of lead.
Hello Colin! It’s your friendly neighborhood Master Technician Brian! Actually, Anode Rods aren’t made out of Lead (that wouldn’t be safe at all). Anode Rods are typically made out of an Aluminum/Zinc alloy or Magnesium (magnesium is a little more common to find in my experience). You see, Anode Rods prevent the water heater from rusting my attracting rust that would normally attach to the tank walls. How would lead do that when with it being so rust resistant? Doesn’t sound like a Lead Anode Rod would be very efficient to me.
So it’s like dropping a rusty nail into your water bottle before drinking it?
I have been making clear ice using this method for years! I get tired of seeing articles about distilled water, boiling water, double boiling water, etc. This is the way to
“Clear ice, full hearts, can’t lose”
This is such a fun and nearly free hobby if you have the freezer space. Note: just don’t let your spouse in on the fun. My husband nearly lost a finger. Yep – we had to throw that ice away.