You may have noticed a recent trend where cocktails have large clear ice cubes in them, often in the shape of a sphere or cube or diamond. But why do cocktails have clear ice in them rather than regular ice?
There's actually some very good reasons that cocktails have clear ice in them instead of cloudy ice.
Cocktails have clear ice because it looks more stunning than regular ice, melts slower and dilutes the drink less. Clear ice is filtered or distilled so tastes better than regular ice and the large size allows it to be molded into impressive shapes like spheres, diamonds and hearts – really making the cocktail pop.
Modern cocktails are varied and interesting, and using clear ice seems to be a standard in most of them. Let’s explore the reasons why cocktails are made with clear ice rather than regular ice and determine if using clear ice of any kind actually improves cocktails or not.
5 Reasons Why Cocktails Have Clear Ice In Them
Almost all modern cocktails at expensive bars and restaurants that are prepared with care are made with clear ice of some form. This has become an industry standard and is an overall better choice for most cocktails.
However, there are some significant reasons why cocktails are specifically made with clear ice that stand out from the rest, and these are the main reasons why this practice has become commonplace in the world of modern cocktails.
Let’s explore the 5 most crucial reasons why cocktails have clear ice in them.
1. It Looks More Impressive
Using clear ice of any kind looks significantly better in a drink than regular ice, otherwise known as white ice.
Clear ice disappears within a drink and becomes almost invisible. That is until you take a sip, and the ice begins to emerge from the beverage and grows larger and more visible the more your drink.
Having white ice can distract from the distinctive colors that some cocktail drinks have and having the clear ice disappear into the drink looks amazing.
This experience is far more satisfying and aesthetically pleasing than using white ice and creates a sense of quality and craftsmanship, making the person drinking the cocktail appreciate the beverage more.
Using large clear ice cubes, spheres or other shapes like diamonds and hearts also adds a big wow factor to the drink as we aren't used to seeing large clear ice cubes at home, so it really makes the drink stand out.
Using clear ice in a cocktail looks impressive and elevates the aesthetics and presentation of the beverage beyond that of drinks that use regular white ice.
2. It Melts Slower Than Regular Ice, Diluting the Drink Less
Another important reason why clear ice is used in cocktails is that this ice melt slower as it's more dense and it affects the taste of drinks less than white ice does.
Clear ice is better than white ice when you want the flavor of the drink to stand out and you want the ice to keep the drink cold, but not dilute it too much.
White ice is white because it has bubbles inside it. These bubbles make the ice less dense – meaning less heat energy is needed to melt it – but it also increases the surface area of the ice as it melts making it melt quicker.
Because clear ice is free from these bubbles as well as other impurities it'll melt slower.
This means that a cocktail can be enjoyed without being diluted, but still being chilled by clear ice present in the glass.
3. It Uses Distilled or Filtered Water For Better Flavor
The process of making clear ice is challenging, but it is worth it. You can get clear ice by freezing ice omni-directionally (usually from the bottom up or top down). This pushes the air bubbles out of the ice making it clear.
One thing that makes ice less clear is the presence of minerals and impurities. So to make ice as clear as it can possibly be most people and businesses will filter or distill the water before making clear ice.
Most clear ice is made from distilled water, as the process of distilling the water before using it for ice helps to removes any impurities from the water that may lead it to freeze white.
However, another benefit of this is many people agree that distilled or filtered water usually tastes better than tap water.
Melting tap water may negatively affect the flavor of a cocktail, but distilled water is nicer and so will negatively affect the flavor of the cocktail less as it melts.
Cocktails use clear ice because it tastes better. Clear ice has not collected any bad smells or flavors from being in the freezer, and the distilled water used to make it has no impurities to cause the cocktail to taste bad as the ice melts, preserving the flavor of the drink and ensuring that it tastes as good as possible.
4. You Can Make Different Shapes Using An Ice Press
Using clear ice in cocktails helps improve the flavor and aesthetics of the beverage, but it can also be used to elevate the drink far beyond what a patron may expect of it.
Clear ice is hard and pure enough to be shaped by an ice press. This device can form clear ice into different shapes, which drastically improves the experience of the drink overall.
Uniquely shaped ice does not taste different or cool a drink better, but it looks far better, and that can be the difference between a great cocktail and a mediocre one.
Ice presses aren't expensive but they do take your cocktails to the next level. If you want a clear ice press I recommend the Cumulus Ice Ball Press Kit (available on Amazon). It’s a simple and beautifully designed ice press that doesn’t break the bank.
5. Clear Ice Cubes Tend To Be Larger, Melting Even Slower
Clear ice cubes are not made with regular ice-making techniques. Clear ice is carefully made, and the process of making it allows the ice to be made significantly larger than regular white ice.
Clear ice is often made in large blocks using a cooler or commercial clear ice machine. Alternatively there are many large ice cube molds that make clear ice in sizes 2 inches x 2 inches or bigger.
The fact that clear ice can be made much larger also increases the mass and density of the ice, which allows it to retain its thermal mass for a longer time, meaning that it melts far slower than ice with impurities and gasses trapped within it.
Large clear ice cubes are the best way to chill a drink without diluting it, providing the best possible cocktail drinking experience.
For the best large clear ice cube mold I recommend the True Cubes mold. It's used by many bars and businesses and it's high quality and works great. It also won't break the bank.
Does Clear Ice Make A Difference In Cocktails?
Clear ice is difficult to make, and at the end of it all, it is only ice, and it will melt away into nothing, so is it really worth it to use clear ice in cocktails? Does clear ice really make a difference in these beverages?
The truth is that clear ice does make a significant difference in cocktails. This ice is made without any impurities that may worsen the drink, it is made to last longer, which prevents it from diluting the drink as much as white ice does. Clear ice drastically improves the experience of drinking the cocktail.
A major aspect of these drinks is aesthetics and the drinking experience, and if using clear ice is a way to improve these factors, then it is a worthwhile endeavor.
What Is The Point Of Clear Ice?
Clear ice may seem meaningless to some, but if you have not yet tried a cocktail with clear ice, you have not yet experienced all that a cocktail can be.
The point of clear ice is to elevate a cocktail or chilled beverage in a way that exceeds its own reach. The drink is still just a drink, but with clear ice that is specifically formed for the drink in a way that makes the drink as good as possible and removes all possibilities of detracting from the drink, it becomes something far better than it can be without it.
Clear ice is not a necessity, but it has become a functionally artistic way to make cocktails and other drinks better than they should be, and this is all the justification anyone needs for going through the trouble of using clear ice in cocktails.
When Shouldn't You Use Clear Ice In Cocktails?
Some cocktail are better off without clear ice. Instead you want to use crushed ice or nugget ice.
These tend to be more fruity cocktails where you want the ice to melt faster to dilute the drink quicker but also where the ice is part of the experience.
Crushed ice has many small pieces which will melt quickly diluting the drink but also bringing it down to a very cold temperature.
Nugget ice is soft and chewable and for some cocktails the recipient will chew on the ice and that is part of the experience. In these circumstances you wouldn't want clear ice as it's harder and more difficult to chew.