If you’re fortunate enough to live above a bar that has an ice block maker and are on good terms with the barman then you’re golden. But if you’re like most of us you are just out of luck. So you’ve probably seen these giant ice orbs floating in perfectly good Scotch and wondered how I can do that at home. There are several ways for the home cocktail enthusiast to make ice balls. The first way is to freeze a large block of ice and using a knife and an ice pick carve it into an ice sphere. The second way is to buy an ice press which will set you back about $600-$1800. The way an ice press works is it comes with a giant ice cube tray in which you freeze the ice which you will later use the ice press to shape into an ice ball. The ice press uses the conductivity of metal and gravity to shape the giant ice cube into an ice ball in about 60 seconds. This is very cool and scores huge on the wow scale. If your pocketbook is bit more modest then an ice ball maker made from silicone or plastic can be purchased for $10-$40. Now not all ice ball makers are created equal. The plastic kind were the first ones out and work but if you’ve ever tried to extract ice from a plastic mold you know what kind of a chore that can be. With the flexibility of the silicone ice ball mold ice extraction became easier. If you have to decide between silicone and plastic then silicone is the winner hands down.
Now that we know about the different ways to make an ice ball the question still remains as to how to I make them perfectly clear? You could purchase an ice block machine for around $6000 that will make you a 400 pound block of clear ice but at that point your friends may start an intervention on you. If you have been to high end bar you most likely enjoyed clear cocktail ice made from one of these machines. For us ice nerds out there nothing beats perfectly clear ice. The shimmer and the clarity dress-up your favorite libation and imbibe it with sophistication and class. So how do I get that same clarity without an expensive ice block machine using a sphere ice mold is the question? Here is where lots of different theories start. One group will tell you to use distilled water and double boiling it to get all the air out of it another group will tell you just to use bottled water while another tells you just boil any water. These suggestions are always and invariably preceded by a discussion about water purity and which water has the least amount of impurities. That is all fine and good but all you have to do is think back to your high school physics class. I can’t take credit for this but a chap by the name of Camper English (Clear Ice Blocks at Home in an Igloo Cooler) did some studies on how water freezes. He talked about the directionality of how water freezes and he made some experiments using coolers to show that if you could control the direction of freezing you can make clear ice. It’s called the pond effect where water freezes from the top down. Basically if you put water inside of any mold it will always freeze from the outside in therefore you’ll always have the striations due to trapped air and impurities that you see in every common ice cube. So by using a cooler and the natural insulation properties of the cooler itself Camper was able to control the way the ice formed inside the mold that he placed in the cooler. By leaving the top open to the cooler it forced the water inside to freeze from the top down. Thereby having a perfectly clear chunk of ice where the impurities and air are trapped on the bottom inch or two of the block. Thus leaving a large block that is perfectly clear.
So for the cost of the good silicone ice ball mold and an igloo cooler you can start making perfectly clear ice balls and bring the style of the high-end cocktail bar to your home. It may take a little effort but the end result is worth it. Cheers!