Clear Ice 101

Why should the ice in your beverage be clear and spherical?

Aside from resulting in a better looking cocktail, worthy of your favorite spirits, there are two key reasons:

Slower-melting: The surface area to volume ratio of a sphere is less than a cube of the same size or several smaller cubes. Less surface area means that a sphere will melt much more slowly than cubes, providing you with a drink that stays colder longer and is less diluted.

Improved Integrity: By removing the air bubbles and impurities from the ice you are reducing the likelihood of it cracking and breaking up into many pieces, which will increase the surface area in contact with your beverage and dilute it too quickly.

How to Make Clear Ice

Directional Freezing on Frozen PondThe key to making clear ice is carefully controlling how the water is freezing. In nature you can see clear ice forming at the top of ponds, this is because of a controlled freezing process. The bottom and edges of the pond are being insulated by the earth so that the water is freezing only from top-to-bottom. This results in clear ice at the top and any air bubbles and impurities being pushed to the bottom as they are the last to freeze. If you have the space, you can do your own test with a simple igloo cooler filled with water in your freezer.

The opposite can be found in a typical ice cube tray where the cubes are being frozen from the top, bottom, and all four sides at the same time- resulting in a cloudy center. Standard Ice Cube Tray This is also the pitfall of many ice ball molds currently on the market. Similar to the pond example, we at Wintersmiths harness the power of the controlled or "directional" freezing process in our products to consistently produce crystal clear ice balls or cubes. 

Common Myths About Making Clear Ice

Clear ice is the topic of a considerable amount of speculation. If you simply do a few quick Google searches you will see what we mean. We wanted to save you some time and put these myths to bed, once and for all. The reality is that simple water adjustments will not fundamentally change the ice in your tray or mold- you must start with the correct mold in order to find consistent success.
  • Myth #1: Using distilled water can produce clear ice
  • Myth #2: Using bottled water can produce clear ice
  • Myth #3: Boiling or double boiling water results in clear ice

How to Make Ice Balls

1.) Ice Ball Molds

There is no shortage of inexpensive “ice ball molds”, “ice sphere molds”, or “whiskey molds” available for sale online and in kitchen/bar supply stores. Some are made exclusively of silicone or plastic, and others use a combination of the two. We have had the opportunity to test a large number of these molds and in our experience they generally work as advertised to form an ice ball. However the ice balls rarely come out symmetrical and are certainly not clear. Here’s how we stack up:

2.) Ice Ball Presses

The aluminum alloy ice press has been around for many years. Unfortunately, this option cannot produce clear ice- it requires that you already have purchased or created large clear blocks of ice before even using it. These ice ball makers can take a block of clear ice and then they melt it down into a sphere. However they can be extremely expensive and time-consuming - some cost over $1,000 USD and don't even make ice for you!

3.) Japanese-style Ice Carving

Likely the oldest method of creating ice balls comes from Japan. It involves a very sharp knife, a lot of skill, and great hand-eye coordination. You will also need to purchase or create a large clear block of ice for this method to work. Check out the video below to see how it’s done.