Shake up your bartending game (or stir it up, if you prefer) with a glassy rock of perfectly clear ice. Artisanal ice cubes are making a splash in the craft cocktail world — and when you try a drink with ice cubes that aren’t cloudy, the difference will be crystal clear. We’ll show you a surprisingly simple and inexpensive way to make flawless cocktail ice at home.
There are a couple of methods for making your own clear cocktail ice floating around the internet, but most aren’t worth your time. Here are some we aren’t crazy about:
Using filtered water instead of tap water: the results are just tepid.
Slow freezing (where you turn your freezer temperature up to the highest possible setting): it works, but you’ll have to sacrifice your ice cream.
Double-boiling the water: this gives you ice that’s about 85% clear, so it’s actually a good quick option — unless you’re a perfectionist like us.
And if you have a few hundred dollars to blow on ice, there’s always the option of treating yourself to an expensive ice machine.
The best way to get 100% crystal clear ice at home is with directional freezing, a method originally developed by mixologist Camper English. All you need is filtered water, the kind of small plastic insulated cooler that you usually take camping, and some freezer space.
Here’s why it works: it’s not that your tap water is dirty — all water, even that from a pristine alpine spring, contains dissolved air (you know, that pesky O in H2O). Boiling water releases some of the air (even more when you boil it twice), but you can’t get rid of it all. As ice freezes, it pushes those tiny bubbles and impurities out — so if you could get ice to freeze in one direction, it would push all of the cloudiness to one spot which you could easily remove. That’s just what freezing water inside a cooler with insulated sides and the top left open does; it forces the ice to freeze from the top down.
n normal ice, cloudiness forms when it freezes completely — because everything that was getting pushed out eventually gets trapped in the ice as it reaches the end of the freezing process. But when you freeze ice directionally in the cooler, and don’t let it freeze all the way (this is key), you can just chip off that partially-frozen layer of ice where all the cloudy junk is hanging out. And voilà — you’re holding in your hands a block of flawless, crystal clear ice ready to be chipped into cubes of all sizes.
We know what you’re thinking: “I’m no hipster, why would I go to this kind of effort for ice?” All snobbery aside, premium ice doesn’t just make a cooler cocktail, it actually makes a better tasting cocktail. That’s because normal cloudy ice cubes are weak (all those air bubbles), so they melt quickly and you end up with a watery drink. If you’re going to serve a cocktail with ice, it’s better to use one solid rock that melts more slowly and doesn’t overly dilute your drink.
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