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Although the concept of ice is simple, a decent ice cube tray can do wonders for your cocktail game. The first step toward better ice? Ditch the chunky plastic ice trays that come with your fridge. “Avoid using those foggy, half-moon-shaped ice that comes out of your freezer door,” explains Jordan Hughes, the cocktail expert behind High-Proof Preacher. “[This is] partly because of aesthetics, but mainly because they break down and melt easily, diluting your cocktail too quickly.”
Instead, opt for an ice cube tray that meets your drinking needs. There are crystal-clear spheres for whiskey lovers and crushed ice trays for Tiki-style cocktails, as well as trays for everyday ice and ice molds for perfectly clear cubes.
To help you decipher the world of ice cubes, we've researched the best ice cube trays for all types of drinkers.
Best Overall: Glacio Ice Cube Trays
Easy to pop ice in and out of cube molds
Cubes are large
Keeps drinks colder longer
Sphere molds are small and not as easy to use
Sphere ice don't always end up perfectly symmetrical
For large spherical and square ice, Glacio’s ice trays pop out six giant cubes, each measuring 2 x 2 inches. Made of food-grade silicone, the trays are designed with a simple, nonstick construction that lets cubes pop in and out of the mold with ease. The durable silicone can be twisted without the risk of breaking. In particular, many online reviewers praise how easy the square cube trays are to use and how durable they are; some others, however, say that the spherical molds were a little trickier to use and didn't always turn out perfectly symmetrical balls.
The large size of the cubes also allows drinkers to get creative. Use the ice to chill down cold brews, make popsicles or add mint sprigs to Mojitos. Each set comes with two trays, one spherical-shaped and one square-shaped. The company offers a 100% money-back guarantee.
Good to Know:
If you want crushed ice for tropical cocktails or DIY slushies, Hughes suggests getting a Lewis bag and wooden mallet. “A Lewis bag is made from canvas and will absorb moisture as you crush the ice with the mallet, helping to prevent it from sticking together too much,” he says.
Best for Whiskey: Tovolo Sphere Ice Molds
Easy to extract ice
Slow to melt
Sphere mold can be tricky to use
Will not fit in all glasses
Tovolo’s plastic-silicone molds pop out perfect spheres of ice. Half the mold is sturdy plasti, and the other is flexible silicone, so it's easy to extract ice from the mold. Pop the mold together, fill with water, and 24 hours later you will have clear, 2.5-inch circular ice (for the clearest ice, use distilled or pre-boiled water). This set comes with two BPA-free, dishwasher-safe molds.
Hughes notes that larger cubes work best for drinks that don't need dilution, such as whiskeys, Scotch and sipping rums. The larger the ice, the more slowly it melts, preserving the taste and strength of your favorite spirit. In addition to the sphere, Tovolo offers molds mustache-, rose- and highball-shaped ice molds.
Plus, you can fill the mold with flowers or colorful juices and freeze to add visual appeal to cocktails or punch bowls.
Best Silicone: W&P Everyday Ice Cube Tray
Bendable and flexible
Great for shaker ice
Lid isn’t attached
If you’ve run into the common issue of cracking a vinyl ice cube tray when removing the ice, a bendable silicone tray is a great solution—like this BPA-free option from W&P. The low-effort, flexible ice mold pops out 12 square cubes.
Measuring 1.25 inches, the tray’s ice cubes are small enough to pop into a cocktail on the rocks, yet large enough to shake without quickly diluting. “For shaker ice,” explains Hughes, "you don’t want [it] to break down too quickly in your shaker, which would over-dilute the cocktail before you even serve it.” One example of ice that's not ideal for shakers are the pellets that come in bags you get from the grocery store, he points out: "They break and melt almost instantly.”
All of these trays stack nicely in a freezer and are dishwasher-safe. Plus, they come in neutral and fun colors like blue, charcoal, marble, confetti and more.
Related: The Best Cocktail Shakers
Best Stainless Steel: Onyx Ice Cube Tray
Removal may require tapping or warm water
The stainless steel construction of this Onyx ice tray not only means it's incredibly durable, but it also keeps the contents from absorbing freezer odors—making it great for freezing broths, herb cubes and fruit juices without the flavors lingering. While this tray isn’t as flexible as a silicone mold, the stainless steel handle and removable divider make it easy to extract ice: When your ice is frozen, flip the handle up, remove the dividers, and ice will pop out with ease.
Each tray prepares 18 large cubes, each measuring 1.75 x 1.5 inches. The larger the cube, the more slowly the ice melts, so your drink will stay cool for longer without dilution. “Typically, large-format ice, like big cubes or spheres, are used for serving spirit-forward drinks, like an Old Fashioned,” says Hughes.
Best for Clear Ice: W&P Peak Clear Ice Mold
Makes perfectly clear ice
Easy to use
Only makes one cube
Takes a while to freeze
For serious cocktail enthusiasts, invest in a mold that creates show-stopping cubes, like this one from W&P. It makes one large, crystal-clear 2-inch ice cube, and it's made up of steel-based silicone molds that come together to make the cube.
Fill the mold with water and slip the insulated sleeve on top. Its top-down design freezes the ice without any bubbles or impurities, while gravity pushes bubbles to the bottom of the mold and a small section captures impurities. When you’re ready for a drink, simply break apart the mold.
Note that this ice mold makes one cube at a time and stands quite tall in your freezer (at 5.8 inches high). Additionally, because these ice cubes are larger than the average cube, they take up to 24 hours to freeze thoroughly.
"Sure, it only makes one ice cube at a time, and it takes more than 24 hours in my freezer, but that one ice cube is wonderfully, perfectly clear. It's by far the easiest and most foolproof way to make clear ice cubes that I've found."
— Kathryn Maier, Editor
Related: The Best Gifts for Cocktail Lovers
Best Easy-Release: Kitch Ice Trays
May crack over time
If you often struggle with getting ice out of a tray, consider an easy-release option like these trays from Kitch. Flexible yet sturdy, they are designed to pop out ice cubes with a simple twist. They also stack nicely in the freezer for convenient storage.
A great value, each tray easily makes 16 ice cubes and is available in either a pack of two (for a total of 32 cubes) or a pack of four (for a total of 64 cubes)—perfect when making cocktails for large parties. The ice cube trays are also 100% BPA-free and dishwasher-safe.
Good to Know:
“To make really dense and clear ice, you’ll want to learn about 'directional freezing,'” advises Hughes. Typically, when ice is frozen in a mold, it freezes from all sides, pushing air bubbles and impurities to the center of the cube, he explains. "If you can insulate all sides of the ice except for the top, this will help the ice to freeze from the top down."
Best for Crushed Ice: NiceCube Mini Cube Silicone Ice Trays
No need to crush ice
Ice melts quickly
Cubes are tough to remove
If you’re eying a Julep-fueled happy hour, NiceCube helps you create crushed ice—sans bag. This set of two tiny ice cube trays make 160 small (0.38-inch) cubes each. The small size of the ice cubes mimics the effect of crushed ice, making them a welcome addition in cobblers and swizzles.
The smaller cubes also freeze far more quickly than your standard ice cube mold, so if you’re in a pinch and need ice stat, these trays will help. Each flexible mold is made with high-grade, BPA-free silicone, so ice can pop out with ease.
For coffee fans, the crushed ice cubes lend themselves well to iced coffees, frappuccinos and smoothies. Or, use the small cubes for water bottles or other small vessels.
Related: The Best Ice Buckets
Best Set: AiBast Ice Cube Tray Set
Includes a range of molds
For fancy ice and normal ice
Will take up space in your freezer
Consider this your starter kit for all things ice: Inside you'll find materials to craft every type of cocktail ice you might need. There’s a large round ice cube tray for slower-melting spheres (think for Scotch or other sipping spirits) and a standard large cube tray for making big rocks (it makes 1.5-inch x 1.5-inch cubes). The sphere mold makes six cubes at 2 inches in diameter and comes with a funnel and measuring cup for filling the trays.
For your average small ice cubes, there is also a honeycomb-style ice tray with a lid that makes 37 0.8-inch small cubes at a time. All of the trays are made with nontoxic, odor-free and nonstick silicone material.
Related: The Best Ice Makers
Best for Highballs: Voloop Ice Cube Tray with Lid
Ideal for highballs and Collins cocktails
Easy to remove the ice
A bit large for some water bottles
The secret to an excellent highball is the temperature. You want the outside of the glass frosty, and the drink hyper-chilled and perfectly refreshing. While chilling the glass beforehand is essential, note that top bartenders opt to use long spears of ice in their highball rather than a collection of regular cubes.
This set includes a nonstick silicone mold for making long sticks of ice. Outside of highballs and Collins cocktails, these sticks will fit inside water bottles. The tray is crafted from nontoxic, high-grade silicone and makes six cubes.
Also included: a lid to protect your ice from lingering fragrances and a bar spoon for stirring up an icy highball.
Related: The Best Cocktail Shakers
If you’re looking for large ice that comes in both cubes and spheres, Glacio's flexible silicone trays (view at Amazon) are designed to be easy to use—and lets you get creative with your chilled drinks. If you’re looking for excellent everyday ice, W&P’s standard ice cube tray (view at Amazon) crafts perfectly square cubes.
What to Look for in an Ice Cube Tray
The standard ice cube trays of yore were made of hard plastic; to remove the cubes, you were required to do a good deal of banging or running the tray under hot water. Today’s trays, however, require no such headaches—the best are made with silicone and metal. Steel trays are trickier to extract cubes from, but they're strong enough to resist cracking or breaking over time. Silicone trays are bendable and flexible, allowing you to remove your cubes with ease. That said, silicone will pick up the odors of your freezer over time.
Your ice cube tray will largely live in your freezer. That said, look for a tray that can be easily stacked amidst pizzas and other freezer essentials. A lid will certainly help; plus, it keeps odors and other freezer scents out of your ice cubes. Make sure the lid secures properly to avoid spilling.
Cube size and shape
Ice cube trays come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. There are teeny, tiny cubes that freeze quickly and lend themselves well to Mojitos or Juleps. There are average-sized cubes that are excellent for all manners of drink-making. Then there are massive molds that make larger cubes that melt far more slowly than an average ice cube (take note, Scotch fans). Alternatively, there are those that come in creative cube shapes, such as flowers, spears and spheres.
How do you clean and care for an ice tray?
To clean, wash the tray with warm water and soap after each use. If you find your silicone tray has picked up unsavory scents, mix a bit of baking soda with warm water and scrub away.
Does some tray material freeze ice faster than others?
How quickly your material freezes ice will depend on the size of your cube and the material of your tray. The thinner the tray, the quicker it will freeze ice. Likewise, the smaller the ice cube, the more quickly it will completely solidify.
What's the key to clear ice?
Start with distilled water, not your standard tap water. From there, processes like directional freezing will help achieve that crystal-clear look; or, opt for an ice maker—like W&P’s Peak Clear Ice Mold (view at Amazon)—that will do the job for you.
Why Trust Liquor.com?
Kate Dingwall is a seasoned sommelier and spirits writer. She has spent six years writing about the field, and 10 years working as a bartender slash sommelier. Her freezer is always stocked with large cubes to pair with her favorite Scotch. For this article, she interviewed spirits expert Jordan Hughes.
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