HOME > Chowhound > Spirits >


Best Ice for Cocktails

I realize that discussing ice is bordering on the ridiculous, but that said -- I'm having folks over for some hand-crafted cocktails, and I heard that distilled water makes beautiful, clear ice. Is it safe, though? Or am I going to make my guests sick?

Also, has anyone experimented with freezing cookie sheets of water for rougher, more organic-looking chunks of ice? Results?

Any other thoughts on ice wholly appreciated!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I remember, when I was a kid, at my grandparent's house, they had aluminum ice cubes "trays" with some kind of lever to separate the cubes from each other.

    The ice that resulted from those trays always "felt" different, more crispy, more "dry".

    imo, using distilled water ice and then let it melt in the drink should have no effect on health (BUT I'M NO EXPERT, MD or ANYTHING LIKE THAT )

    1 Reply
    1. re: Maximilien

      I agree with you on those aluminum trays and the effect.

      1. It's not ridiculous at all.

        Here's a whole thread over at egullet on the topic:


        After reading that thread, I've done some experimenting with freezing filtered water that I've boiled, freezing blocks in rectangular storage containers, thawing and refreezing, all to try and get clearer ice. In the end, I couldn't get any of it very clear and it didn't seem to be worth the trouble for home use. I did get some Tovolo silicone ice cube trays for nicer looking real cubes instead of the various ice tray shapes. Hand chipped ice from a home frozen block is something I might try in the future.

        There's always this little guy:


        Only $1700 at Sam's Club.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ultramagnetic

          I'll second the discussion on eGullet. Very good info.

          I'll also second the problems with achieving truly clear ice at home.

          I've tried:
          Fiji Bottled Water
          Fiji Bottled Water Boiled
          Fiji Bottled Water Boiled, Cooled, Re-Boiled
          Tap Water
          Tap Water Boiled
          Distilled Water
          Distilled Water Boiled
          Distilled Water Boiled, Cooled, Re-Boiled

          All still have small air bubbles. For my time and money my current favorite is distilled water, straight from the jug in to my Tovolo silicon ice cube trays. The near perfect cubes are really a nice touch. I found mine at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Also, regarding your concerns with distilled water, fear not. Distilled water is simply water that has been brought to a boil and the pure water vapor has then been condensed. It's a form of water purification, which is why it yields clearer ice (lower/zero mineral content and lower dissolved gasses).

          Ultra -> I'd also love a Kold Draft...someday....someday

        2. What makes beautiful clear ice is simply freezing from the bottom so that the air will escape and not be trapped by the layer of ice already formed at the top. This is not necessarily always the best ice, it's just clear. I highly doubt that you would get better results by using distilled water rather than filtered water because the gas bubbles would dissolve in distilled water as well. If you want to have good ice, simply run it through a filter of some sort to remove impurities. There is no scientific proof of health problems against distilled water, if there was, then they'd stop selling it. There are people who claim things like it leaches nutrients from your teeth or from your body, but I don't buy it. I suppose if you let the water sit in your mouth for days, but other than that, there are lots of nutrients everywhere. If you wanted amazingly beautiful clear ice, then I think the best at home method would be to put the cookie sheet in a cooler on top of a water/ice/salt slurry. That way the heat is conducted down and the water freezes first on the bottom. Thus, air can escape. Though, this is an absolute massive pain, and, probably not worth it. I will direct you to here for more information.


          3 Replies
          1. re: Xaga

            Great suggestion Xaga. Can't wait to give the water/ice/salt slurry method a try. Not quite sure how I'm going to work out the technical details, but that's part of the fun.


            1. re: Xaga

              FYI Leaching nutrients (minerals) from your body is a problem with de-ionized water not distilled water.

              1. re: kchasky

                Personally, I don't buy it. The concentration of ions in typical water is miniscule. You're body has plenty of extra sodium, chloride, glucose, all of which can fill the void. Even normal drinking water has less ion content than your blood. Luckily we have enzymes and such to keep helpful nutrients inside us.

            2. If you want some fancy clear ice, most big cities will have an ice distributor who will sell you some good ice for a decent price. In Boston there's Brookline Ice and Coal (http://www.brooklineice.com/), where the ice will be clear, but a little small if you buy it in the store, I don't know if they can get you something between the "cocktail ice" which is on the smaller/inconsistent side, and the block.

              If you're having people over for lovely cocktails and both you and they will notice the ice, just buy it. It'll be something like $5 for more ice than you'll use.

              1. Distilled water from a chemical and biological viewpoint is just about sterile and as safe as it gets for ice making.

                Distilled water has very little dissolved gas in it, even if you shake the container, because all of it came out during the distillation process. Distilled water would make the most flavorless ice as well, since it has no flavor from minerals, etc. left in it. I would assume that it would make some of the best ice.

                Clear doesn't mean good ice. Most commercial ice is too warm/soft for making good cocktails. Also the cubes are too small, so they water down the cocktail too much. Even if it is cloudy, home ice is better. Colder and larger cubes. Of course many high end cocktail bars have multi-thousand dollar specialized ice machines which make incredible ice, very pure, cold, hard and clear.

                1. I like to freeze tonic water that has gone flat in my ice cube trays and use the cubes in vodka tonics. It's not clear, but they don't water the drink down when they melt.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Johnny Pastrami

                    How do they not water the drink down? You're decreasing the alcohol-to-mixer ratio. Sounds like watering down to me.

                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                      You're watering down the vodka level, but not the tonic level.

                  2. I talked to an ice sculptor. He said clear ice is made by spinning while freezing... it drives the oxygen out like a centerfuge (sp? sorry english is a second language).

                    1. I make ice in ice tray bottles - Bed Bath and Beyond sells them - as I figure it might stave off odors from the freezer. Now, I guess I only get odors from the plastic these are made of... I dunno...

                      1. Boiling the water first will remove dissolved gasses giving you clear ice.

                          1. re: ndelson

                            I keep trying to convince myself I don't really need the Kold Draft Ice Butler while at the same time plotting where I would put it and how exactly I'd plumb in a water source and drain. :)

                          2. this is what I do, and I get perfectly clear ice and its easy. Take a ziplock freezer bag, fill it half full of water, and push out all the air, lay it flat on the shelf of your freezer, and the next day take the bag and drop it to the floor 10 or so times..


                            1 Reply
                            1. re: gryphonskeeper

                              I love finding new toys, but sharing them is even more fun. You can now get stainless steel ice cube trays from an online store called the tickle trunk. I haven't received mine yet, I'll keep you posted.

                            2. i've been having Very Good luck using very hot tap water in my plastic trays (and i let it run to heat the trays too). it seems to me that clear ice is more a function of the time it takes to freeze, which is greater the higher the starting temperature, than anything else.

                              while my cubes are not Perfectly Clear they only have a sliver of a white crescent in them.