Ice is one of the most important parts of a cocktail. As well as the obvious – keeping everything chilled – ice cubes add a slick final touch to the look of the drink, and the type of ice you use will depend on which cocktail you're making. Drinks such as an old fashioned or negroni are often served with a very large ice cube as they melt slowly, ideal for spirit-forward drinks that shouldn't be watered down too much. In contrast, order a cocktail like a mint julep and it will be served with a frosty mound of crushed ice that melts more quickly, perfect for long, refreshing drinks. Ice cubes are also a great way to add a twist to any drink – from giving oomph to iced coffee to boosting a G&T with extra flavour. Here's what you need to know.

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Read our guide to cocktail ice cubes, then check out our features on the best cocktail accessories, cocktail glasses and drinks trollies.

Peach Mint Julep Cocktail Recipe

DIY ice cubes

How to make clear ice cubes

Go to any cocktail bar and you'll be served drinks with glossy, crystal-clear ice cubes. Try to make ice cubes using ordinary tap water at home, however, and you'll discover that the freezer produces cloudy-looking cubes, the result of impurities and air bubbles in tap water that get trapped in the ice.

Many bars will have professional (and expensive) equipment to help them produce clear ice, but there are a couple of tricks you can try at home.

Try boiling distilled water twice, then pouring into an ice tray and freezing. The results won't be completely clear but should look a lot better. Alternatively, if you have the space, take a hard, insulated cooler that fits in your freezer. Fill around three-quarters full with water, and leave in the freezer with the cooler lid off until almost frozen, with a little water left under the ice. Take the cooler out, leave for a few minutes and then slide the ice block out (there may be some cloudy ice at the bottom that you can scrape off). You can then use an ice pick or kitchen cleaver to (carefully) break the ice apart into chunks or cubes and stash back in the freezer, ready to use.


How to make flavoured ice cubes

An easy way to boost flavour in drinks is by flavouring ice cubes. Try freezing the brine left over from a jar of olives in ice cube trays – they're perfect for making dirty martinis. We love doing the same with Aperol and Campari – add to a glass followed by sparkling wine and soda water, and you've got an instant spritz. For G&Ts, try freezing whole edible flowers and small sprigs of herbs – they look pretty and will add an aromatic hint to your drink. We also like freezing fruit juice in ice cube trays, as well using frozen chopped fruit and whole berries.


How to make coffee ice cubes

Next time you have some left-over coffee in your cafetière, try freezing it in an ice cube tray. These coffee ice cubes are perfect for adding to iced coffees to ensure the drink stays chilled and doesn't get watered down. If you like, try adding flavoured syrups to the trays – vanilla is delicious.

A glass o cold brew iced latte

Best ice cube trays for cocktails

Ice cube trays come in all shapes and sizes, and it's worth investing in a few different types. When deciding what to buy, a good rule to remember is that the bigger the ice cube the more slowly it will melt. These jumbo square silicone moulds are perfect for boozy, spirit-forward drinks that don't need lots of dilution. Looking for the perfect whisky ice cubes? Think about the shape – round cubes will melt more slowly than square so these ice ball moulds are perfect for neat serves of spirits.

When making drinks, there's nothing more annoying than having to pry ice cubes out of their trays. Ice cube trays made out of silicone are much easier to use, and this OXO product also comes with a tray for easy filling and transport, and a cover so you can stack multiple ice trays in the freezer.


Whisky ice cubes

As mentioned above, ice ball moulds are great for whisky as they melt much more slowly, so won't dilute the spirit too much. Some people, however, prefer to drink their whisky with no ice at all. In that instance whisky stones, which can be kept in the freezer and reused again and again, make a good option.


How long does it take for ice cubes to freeze?

It typically takes around three to four hours for ice cubes to freeze.

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How to make ice cubes without a tray

Try filling a resealable, reusable plastic bag partly with water, and lay flat in the freezer for several hours. Once frozen, use a rolling pin to bash the ice into chunks (do this in the bag so you avoid any flying pieces of ice). Alternatively, if you have any silicone cake or cupcake moulds they will work similarly to a silicone ice cube tray – just don't use anything too large otherwise you might struggle to break the ice up after.

A green background with a tall glass filled with a red cocktail and a wedge of orange

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