Hot Water Is The Key To Crystal Clear Ice Cubes

We've all seen those stunning, crystal clear ice cubes that gleam like diamonds while sitting under a blanket of bourbon or chilling a vodka soda. Whether they were first spotted in a cocktail lounge or maybe in a magazine ad, many have been inspired and have attempted to recreate these pristine cubes at home, though they haven't always been successful. Standard ice cubes do the job of chilling drinks just fine, but most of them don't achieve that desired transparent look. Rather, they may appear murky and cloudy. What gives? After all, the water you used to begin with was perfectly clean and clear.

Next time, you might want to try freezing hot water. It may sound silly, but there are actually less impurities in hot water since heat removes them. By impurities, we mean, natural elements such as air and minerals that are naturally present in water. These are what cause the cloudiness in ice since they get trapped as cold water starts to freeze. While hot water will take a bit longer to turn into ice, if you want clearer cubes, it's the way to go.

The secret: boil water before freezing

Millie Pham, a former bartender, told Better Homes & Gardens that using boiled, distilled water will create the clearest cubes possible. Distilled water is ideal for the desired final result as it has been processed to remove minerals, salts, and other impurities. Usually, you can find bottles of distilled water at most grocery stores. 

To make those crystal clear cubes, bring the water to a boil and pour directly into an ice cube tray or mold. Once frozen, the cubes should be noticeably more transparent than ice made with cold or room-temperature water. Pham also mentions a clear ice mold is a big help. Clear ice molds have a design that allows the water inside to freeze from one direction, not from all 360 degrees like regular ice molds. When water is frozen in one direction, any existing air bubbles are slowly forced out of the water, leaving behind ice you can see through. Clear ice molds are more expensive than plastic ice cube trays, however, though don't cost as much as professional ice-making machines.

Does clear ice make a difference?

Aside from making your gin and tonic look ready for a closeup, using clear ice in cocktails can actually make them taste better. This is because transparent ice melts slower than cloudy cubes (the air that causes traditional cubes to have opaque qualities affects the speed in which ice melts). Without the air, the ice stays intact longer. So, if you enjoy a stiff bourbon on the rocks, you'll taste more bourbon and less water as you sip if you're using clear ice. This goes for your favorite sodas or other iced drinks as well.

It's important to know that, just like standard, cloudy ice, even transparent cubes can develop freezer burn if you let them sit in the freezer for too long. After about two weeks, you should toss any leftover ice and make a new batch since freezer-burnt cubes can have an unpleasant, "off" taste that will impact whatever you're drinking. 

Needless to say, all ice will get the job done if you're looking to cool down your drink. If looks don't matter, or if you're blending ice into a smoothie, for example, there's nothing wrong with freezing cold, tap water. If, however, you like to make your Instagram followers envious of your beautiful handcrafted cocktails and the most craveable ice cubes, switch to hot water.