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Best ice cube trays / techniques for cocktail ice

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One of the big benefits cocktail bars have over the "home user" is the wide array of professional ice machines available to them.

Since I'm not going to shell out a few $k on a high-end machine, can anyone recommend decent freezer trays or techniques for the home cocktail enthusiast? I've seen the novelty ice cube trays everywhere, but is there something for the person who doesn't want an ice cube in the shape of a palm tree or bacon?

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  1. Tovolo "perfect cube" silicon ice cube trays are a nice shape and size. You can get them at Amazon, Target, etc. although they are kind of expensive at $15 for two trays.

    I find having fresh ice makes a significant difference, so it helps to either use or place the cubes in a sealed container soon after they freeze. I like to keep one container of cracked ice and one of cubes in my freezer. The cracked ice I use for stirred drinks like martinis or manhattans.

    I haven't tried it, but you can also make really big ice in various types of containers and then chip it down to whatever size you want.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nickls

      Any way to buy those tovolo ice trays anywhere in Canada? I found one site but the shipping costs were ridiculous.

    2. At home, the biggest problem we have is most of us make ice in our freezer that is connected to our refrigerator. Every odor that is in our refrigerator/freezer ends up in our ice, so the sooner you use it after freezing the better. Fresh ice is better ice.

      I recently received the silicon square cube makers from Tovolo. The cubes are not perfect, and you have to slide them out slowly, one at a time, but they look nice in an old-fashioned glass, or highball. The forms are flexible silicon, so you need to place them on a hard surface like a sheet pan, to get them to the freezer without spilling.
      http://www.amazon.com/Tovolo-Perfect-...

      Here is a spherical form. A bit expensive, but fun...
      http://www.momastore.org/museum/moma/...

      I would like to try freezing ice in a large block and then chip. If you try it, please post your results back here.

      Cloudy ice is caused by trapped gasses inside the ice cube. Some commercial ice makers use a method that freezers the ice in layers (like an icicle) , but at home your ice cube will begin to freeze from the top down, trapping the air inside. You can use filtered water, boil the water first, poke holes in the top of the ice cubes as it freezes, agitate the trays, and other things, to get your ice more clear.
      Here is a link to the science behind clear ice....
      http://blog.khymos.org/2008/04/13/ice...
      http://www.artofdrink.com/2007/06/coc...

      3 Replies
      1. re: jerryc123

        Wow - I appreciate the art of tending bar even more now!

        Maybe I just need to get one of these bad boys, which I've seen in use at PDT ...

        http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2008...

        1. re: lambretta76

          Now you are talkin' !!! The TAISIN ice mold. It could be yours for a mere $600.
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jr_dlV...

          That is one sexy ice cube.

          1. re: lambretta76

            Drinkshop at the W downtown in Atlanta uses those, too. Very cool, and it's a snug fit with the tumblers they have.

        2. Nthing tovolo for certain stuff... I use them for shaking and chilling glasses. If you want crushed ice, it's pretty easy to smash the 1" cubes in a towel or whatever.

          For larger chunks (like if you want the really giant cubes without having to take them out of block ice), I have been using the silicon baking molds from here:

          http://www.bakedeco.com/detail.asp?id...
          http://www.bakedeco.com/detail.asp?id...

          The 50mm (2") ones work pretty well in a double old-fashioned / rocks glass.

          4 Replies
          1. re: will47

            Good find! I've seen the 2" ones at Surfas but they were too expensive. So glad I caught this post.

            I've been using small hotel pans to freeze a good chunk of ice. Then I hand chip them into 4-5 nice sized, irregular chunks. I'll put those in freezer bags for storage. That's been working well, but it's more work than those molds.

            I strongly suggest distilled water for all ice cubes. While a large portion of the cloudiness in ice comes from the trapped gases, minerals will also add significant cloudiness. The distilled water also adds absolutely no flavor to the chilled cocktail. I've had great results with it and I wouldn't go back to the Brita-filtered water I was using before.

            1. re: will47

              Strolled by Barkeeper in Silver Lake to pick up a couple of coupe glasses and found they just started carrying these.

              http://www.centralchef.com/storefront...

              They were just put out 5/31/10. I picked one up. Noticed that the bottom of the mold is beveled, if that matters to you. I'll let you know about the results.

              1. re: cacio e pepe

                Ooh - nice! I was in there just a little before that and didn't notice anything new or exciting, but I'll have to stop by and pick one up.

                1. re: will47

                  Love 'em. I don't think they'd be any better than the silicon baking molds you linked to earlier, though. I've been using them for drinks served in old fashioned glasses, but I've also found that two of these big cubes are perfect for shaking. Still use the 1" cubes for stirring and drinks served in collins glasses.

                  Barkeeper should be a very different place around August when they get their liquor license sorted.

            2. I employ a few different techniques when making my ice at home. I use the MoMA spherical molds to freeze ice for short rocks drinks. The spheres also work pretty well for shaking, but you have to be careful to avoid breaking them during the shake. For my primary shaking ice, I use teacups that my girlfriend appropriated from the restaurant where she used to work. They create nice fat chunks of bullet-shaped ice that reasonably approximate 3-inch blocks. Very sturdy, they'll stay in one piece through a good rough shake, chilling things down while adding just the right amount of water.

              To get long pieces for tall rocks drinks, I cut up a Tovolo tray so that four of the cubes are combined into one, long slab. For stirring, I actually just use the ice made by my freezer -- which is, luckily, of decent size and cube-shaped.

              I keep the freezer set at 6-below and, in order to avoid the horrors of stinky ice, I store nothing in the freezer but ice, ice-making implements, and glassware.

              1. Not for cocktials, but if you want giant cubes for whiskies, there is a supermarket brand of goat cheese that comes in a slightly pyramid shape. The plastic container makes a great ice cube!