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By Block Ice | October 11, 2023

If you’re trying to elevate your home cocktail game, you may have noticed a difference between the ice you’re pulling from your freezer and the ice served by your favorite bartender.

The size, shape, and even quality of your cocktail ice can make a big difference in your drink experience. So why do bartenders choose oversized, clear cubes over plain ice?

The devil is in the dilution with this one. Let’s dive into why…

Why do bartenders use oversized, clear ice blocks?

It’s likely that the ice in your favorite upscale cocktail is larger than an oversized pair of Chanel sunglasses. Crystal-clear blocks of ice are increasingly popular in upscale bars, restaurants, and even home bars. From the look to the feel, these cubes have everything you need for an aesthetic drink.

So why opt for an oversized block of ice? We’ll take “surface area for 500,” Alex.

These large, clear cubes are meant to lessen dilution because they expose less surface area for the same amount of volume compared to a handful of smaller cubes. That means slower melting and less dilution of your drink.

By the way, did you know exactly how ice melts and dilutes your drink to begin with?

How does ice cool drinks?

Ask most people, and they’ll tell you that a melting ice cube cools their favorite beverage by transferring cold from the ice to liquid in the glass.

It’s a common misconception. But the actual mechanics happen in reverse.

Ice chills your drink by absorbing the heat (or molecular energy) from the liquid around it.

Put on your science hats!

Heat is a measure of molecular motion. The faster a thing’s molecules move, the more heat it produces. When the slow-moving molecules in an ice cube (or ice sphere) come into contact with the faster-moving molecules from your favorite whisky, the ice begins to absorb the energy from the liquid.

As the ice absorbs the warmth, its molecules begin to move a bit faster and warm up. Once those molecules hit the melting point (32°F), the ice melts, diluting your beverage with water.

So now, when you look at an oversized cube of ice in your glass, you’ll imagine the ice cube hard at work absorbing the heat, pulling warmth out of your whisky so you can enjoy a nice, cool drink.

How does craft ice get so clear and flavorless?

Remember in our science lesson above, we mentioned that ice will start to melt and dilute once it has absorbed enough molecular energy (heat) from the beverage?

That means that water flavor or odors that were trapped in that ice cube are now unintended mixers for your cocktail.

When ice freezes, it can trap air and other impurities as it solidifies. Using methods such as filtration and controlling the rate of freezing plus the direction it freezes helps to achieve that crystal-clear consistency. It takes time and expertise to craft cubes that clear, so your favorite local bars will often order their craft ice.

Imagine the ice cube tray in your home freezer. And the cubes that are chilling in there, along with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, the frozen salmon from your mail-order subscription box, and the ever-present bag of peas.

All of those odors and flavors are swirling around in the chill box, just ready to be absorbed into your cubes and then released into an unsuspecting cocktail glass.

Craft ice is made during a special process that ensures there are no odors, flavors, or air bubbles that can lead to a cloudy cube.

Recommended reading: How is craft ice made?

How do you get bartender-quality ice at home?

Want to elevate your next home cocktail with a blog that will melt slowly, stave off dilution, and be perfectly clear and flavorless?

You’re in luck!

Artisan craft ice is a trend that’s making its way out of upscale bars and restaurants and into homes.

In Northern California, fans of Block Ice can find our artisan cubes at select Nugget Markets. Plus, there are plenty of local bars and restaurants serving Block Ice, so you can get crystal clear craft ice out and about or at home.

Find our ice and start elevating your cocktail experience today.