How to Make Clear Ice Cubes

Clear ice is really easy to make at home. You’ll be happy to hear it doesn’t involve boiling water or any expensive equipment to make crystal clear ice for cocktails.

Clear ice in cocktail glass

Clear ice is really easy to make at home. You’ll be happy to hear it doesn’t involve boiling water or any expensive equipment to make crystal clear ice. But why do I want clear ice in the first place? Is it worth the extra hassle?

I can’t answer this question for you but I do think it makes a big difference in cocktails. It’s absolutely worth it to me.

The Case for Clear Ice

  • Clear ice is free from impurities and off-flavors. Ever feel like you can taste your freezer with the last few sips of your cocktail? You’re actually tasting the flavors and impurities within the oxygen trapped in the ice, rendering it cloudy. Clear ice is free of oxygen and flavorless.
  • Clear ice melts slower. Large ice cubes alone are slower melting than standard, smaller freezer cubes, resulting in less drink dilution. Clear ice melts even slower than its cloudy counterpart. The purer the ice, the slower it will melt.
  • Clear ice looks really nice in a cocktail. Presentation is everything when it comes to food and drinks. A crystal clear ice cube elevates the experience of drinking a finely crafted cocktail.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to make clear ice at home.

Cooler full of ice

1. Freeze Water for 24-30 Hours

Your best option is to buy a small insulated cooler that can fit in your freezer. I found an $8 5-quart Coleman cooler on Amazon that is the perfect size. Remove the lid and freeze for 24-30 hours in your freezer. The block of ice will not be 100% frozen at the bottom, which is what we want.

Partially frozen ice block

2. Remove Block From the Cooler

Remove the cooler from the freezer and flip upside down on a cutting board. The ice will eventually release from the sides and fall out in about 10 minutes or immediately. This is best done in another container or over the sink to prevent water from spilling on the counter.

Cutting/shaping ice block with knife

3. Cut/Chip Off Unfrozen Bottom Portion

In most cases, the ice block will be half-frozen with a massive “water bubble” at the bottom of the cooler/ice block. You may need to break the (now top) half of the ice that is full of water. Use a rolling pin or clean hammer to gently break up the partially frozen portion and drain the water.

Block of crystal clear cocktail ice

4. Shape the Block

Use a knife to carefully cut or chip away any remaining frozen chunks from the ice block. Be sure to get as smooth as possible. You should be left with a solid 4-5 inch thick rectangular slab of ice.

Cutting block of clear ice into columns

5. Cut the Ice Block Into Columns

Flip the ice block so the smooth side is facing up. Using a large serrated bread knife, carefully, but firmly saw/score the ice into 2-3 inch wide columns. It helps to try to get 4-5 uniform columns out of your ice block, just be sure they’re not too wide to fit in a standard double old fashioned glass.

Cut block of ice

6. Splitting the Ice

The ice should split fairly easily if you create a generous scoreline with the knife. It usually doesn’t take more than 6 to 7 back and forth motions to do so. With the knife still in the ice block, gently tap on the top of the knife blade with a rubber mallet or rolling pin. The ice will break right at your cut line in a perfect slice. Start at one side and work your way across the block, one row at a time.

Cutting block of clear cocktail ice into cubes

7. Cut Into Uniform Cubes

From here you can take each column and cut into uniform blocks of ice using the same process detailed in step 5. I like to cut cubes slightly rectangular so they’re a little taller than they are wide. This will perfectly fit into a double old fashioned glass. Create 2×2 inch square cubes at a minimum.

If you have pieces that aren’t perfectly square or have uneven edges protruding, you can use a chef’s knife or carving knife to shave those portions off. Always start the knife at the top of the block and carefully shave in a downward motion to achieve more perfect squares. Remember, craft cocktail ice doesn’t always need to be perfect.

Why Does This Method Work?

Without the lid, the cooler allows the ice to freeze from the top to bottom, pushing the air and impurities down to the bottom of the cooler. The key is to remove the ice from the cooler before the bottom completely freezes, leaving you with a perfectly clear top portion of ice.

Can I Use Tap Water?

Yes. There is a lot of misinformation out there that suggests you need to boil the water before freezing or use purified water for crystal clear results. This may help with other methods, but it’s simply not necessary for this method. As a general rule of thumb, if you like the way your tap water tastes, then it’s good enough to use to make clear ice at home.

The ice cubes created here were made with regular tap water with no other treatments.

Clear ice cubes