How to make clear ice the Old Fashioned way

Serving drinks with a measure of style requires a focus on the details. Get the basics right and you may meet expectations. But to be memorable, you need to surpass them. Ask yourself – when was the last time you found yourself jawing to a friend about the new joint in town because “they just did the basics well…”

Never, right?

Whether you’re hosting an event or running a bar, astonishing your guests with the unexpected is what will get you noticed. The unusual twist you put on the garnish, or the unconventional glassware (or whatever it might be) gives your guests a reason to talk about you to their friends the next day. Or to post a photo of their drink on social media. And just like that you’ve got quite the reputation.

In this blog, we’re going to cover one particular technique you can use to get your drinks to turn heads – making your own crystal clear ice.

Ice that’s clearly superior

Ice quality really can make or break a drink: as anyone who has been served either a warm or watery whiskey and coke will attest.

And while regular, cloudy ice will keep your drink cold, a transparent block just looks totally swell as part of your serve.

Making clear ice is duck soup – you won’t need any fancy equipment. We use a process called directional freezing, which is a newfangled technique that delivers Old Fashioned Quality. All you need for crystalline ice blocks is:

1 x small cooler (without a lid)
1 x serrated knife
1 x mallet
1 x chisel
1 x ice ball mold
1 x boston shaker tin
Tap water

Cloudy_Ice

Cloudy Ice

Old_Fashioned_Cocktail_Clear_Ice

Clear Ice

The directional freezing process

When folks freeze water in a tray to make regular ice cubes, the freezing process takes place gradually from the edges of the mould to the center. This causes air and impurities to become trapped inside, making the blocks look cloudy.

With directional freezing, we make sure our ice forms from the top down. This way, any air is concentrated at the bottom of our block. We can cut the cloudy bottom part off, leaving us with a crystal-clear slab of ice.

All you need to do is fill your cooler with water and leave it in the freezer for 24 hours. Because the top of the cooler is open but the sides are insulated, the water will freeze from the top down. After 24 hours, take your ice out of the freezer and remove it from the cooler – run the outside of the container under some warm water to loosen it up if needed.

If you’re lucky, the block will only have frozen about two thirds of the way down the cooler. This will leave you with some water in the bottom and a block of clear ice. Chip away the thin outer layer round the edges, allowing the excess water to drain away, and there ya have it!

But if the whole thing has frozen solid, just cut away any cloudy bits at the bottom. Use a serrated knife to score the ice before tapping it gently with a chisel and mallet for best results.

Making clear ice balls

For a clear sphere, follow the process we’ve outlined – but before you put the cooler in the freezer, fill a boston shaker with water and put it inside the cooler. Then fill your ice ball mold with water and put it upside down in the boston shaker, so it’s partially submerged.

After 24 hours, take it out of the freezer as above. This method will leave you with both a single ice ball and a slab for shaping. If you’d prefer to make multiple ice balls, dispense with the shaker and add several molds directly to a cooler. Make sure the water level in the cooler just about covers the molds.

Sculpting your ice

You might not be carving intricate sculptures on your first attempt, but don’t be afraid to experiment with different shapes of ice blocks to compliment your overall cocktail serve.

For example, an ice ball works great for an Old Fashioned served in a rocks glass; but a rectangular ‘stick’ of ice is the perfect fit for cocktails served in a highball glass (such as a gin rickey).

Ice-with-Ice-Stick

You can even keep your ice slab intact and chip bits off in front of guests as you prepare their drinks. But whatever shape you choose, cut your blocks big! Not only will they look better, they’ll dilute your drinks much more slowly.

And that’s it – go ahead and give it a try! Or if you don’t have time to make clear ice yourself, we’ll do it for you! We include clear ice with many of our signature drinks – check out our packages here.