If a cocktail site is writing about ice, it is usually a story about $3,000 Clinebell machines, or why quitting your job to master the art and science of making completely clear ice is the best decision you’ll ever make. But you don’t need to dive too deep into the frozen weeds to realize that ice is a valuable cocktail ingredient and making good ice, even if you aren’t willing to sacrifice economic security to get it, is a worthy endeavor. As Richard Boccato of Hundredweight Ice told SC’s Anna Archibald, “Ice is to the bartender as the flame is to the chef. If you’re going to go through the necessary measures at home to introduce fine spirits and fresh ingredients to your cocktails, it certainly does behoove you to think of the caliber of frozen water that you’re introducing into your cocktails as being as, if not more, important than some of the other ingredients.”
And so, to help the everyday ice enthusiast, we went in search of the tray that would produce the best cubes possible, without requiring you to outfit your freezer like a high-end cocktail bar. And while an ice tray may not seem complicated, there are a few aspects that can make one a better investment than another: the clarity and density of the ice, the ease of filling it and transporting it to the freezer, and the ease of extracting the ice. To keep things simple, we filled each tray with water straight from the sink (as you might if you were in a hurry).
After testing a freezer full of different options, from the basic plastic trays that come with your freezer to bartender recommended silicone molds, we found the four worth buying: