If you've spent enough time at fancy bars, you've probably come across a few of those big, crystal-clear ice cubes that let you see straight through to the bottom of the glass like you were looking through a window.
The ice that comes out of your freezer, while just as cold, is always going to be smaller and cloudier than fancy bar ice, and the differences are more than just aesthetic. Cooling your drink with multiple, smaller cubes exposes more of the surface area of the ice to liquid, which means your ice melts faster, and your drink gets watered down before you finish it. And the "clouds" inside those cubes? They're air bubbles, and once they get exposed to your drink, your ice will start melting even faster than before.
Luckily, with the right tool, it's easy to make fancy, transparent ice cubes at home that'll make your house guests say "wow."
You'll never be able to make a completely clear ice cube (even if you use filtered water, a common myth). But you can make a block of ice that's half clear and half cloudy, allowing you to chop off and dispose of the imperfect half, while keeping the good half for your drink. The secret is a process called directional freezing.
To get a cube of clear ice, you'll want to make a rectangle shaped block of ice roughly twice as large as the cube you want to end up with. You'll also need to ensure that one half of it freezes faster than the other half, rather than the whole thing freezing at once. When the top of the ice freezes first, it pushes all the air bubbles and imperfections towards the still-liquid bottom, which will freeze later while trapping all of the cloudiness.
The best tool we've found for making cocktail-ready cubes is TrueCubes, a directional freezing mold that creates four 2" cube clear ice cubes at a time.
The two-part mold sits inside a thick, insulated sleeve, but is open on top, meaning the water at the top of the mold will freeze more quickly than the water at the bottom that's surrounded by insulation, forcing all of the imperfections downward into a reservoir as the cubes solidify on top.
The process takes longer than making regular ice--about 18-22 hours--but once you yank on the top mold to separate it from the cloudy ice below, you'll have four cocktail bar-quality cubes that you can use immediately, or toss in a freezer bag to save for later.
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