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While the concept of ice is simple, a decent ice cube tray can do wonders for your cocktail game. The first step towards 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. “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 decipher the world of ice cubes, we've rounded up our favorite ice cube trays for all drinkers.
Best for Whiskey: Tovolo Sphere Ice Molds
Tovolo’s plastic-silicone molds pop out perfect, spherical circles of ice. Half the mold is sturdy plastic and the other is flexible silicone to easily 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, like whiskeys, Scotch, sipping rums and the sort. The larger the ice, the slower it melts, preserving the taste and strength of your favorite spirit. In addition to the sphere, Tovolo offers 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.
Related: The Best Ice Makers
Best with Storage: Lékué Ice Box
Along with creating ice, Lékué's built-in container stores up to 132 ice cubes—making it perfect for parties. In other words, this one tray can do the work of up to four ice cube trays.
This ice box also doubles as a portable cooler: simply pull the sleek container out of the fridge and pop in your drink to chill it down, or bring it outside for easy-access cocktail ice. An air chamber provides thermal insulation to keep ice chilled even in warmer weather, and a thick silicone lid and insulated construction protect ice from freezer odors. The container is constructed of BPA-free ABS plastic and it’s made with a hollow base to preserve coldness and reduce condensation.
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 Ice Sticks: OXO No-Spill Tray
While this OXO ice stick tray is ideal for highballs, collins and beyond, its narrow ice sticks also slip perfectly into water bottles for chilling down beverages on the go. The tray’s silicone lid makes sure the ice is sealed and safe from freezer odors. “Ice can end up absorbing different flavors or aromas,” explains Hughes. “So if you’re making cocktail ice, you probably don’t want it sharing freezer space with food that isn’t properly sealed.” The sealed lid also lets you stack the tray alongside everything else in your freezer.
This ice tray, which makes 12 ice sticks, is outfitted with silicone grips to make filling the tray and moving it to the freezer a mess-free endeavor. To pop out the cubes, simply pull the grips down. And, as a pro tip, run warm water on the underside of the tray before popping off the lid and releasing the ice cubes. It will prevent the tray from cracking and give it a longer life.
Best for Small Cubes: Silicone Mini Ice Cube Trays
For tiny ice cubes with a multitude of uses, Hughes recommends this ice cube tray to make “minuscule ice cubes similar to pebble ice,” or for making cobblers and swizzles. Each tray makes over 160, 0.38-inch ice cubes with each freeze. As the cubes are small in size, they freeze far faster than the average ice cube. Smooth food-grade silicone quickly removes ice and is easy to clean.
Cocktail lovers can use the cubes to make Juleps, Mojitos, swizzles and more, but outside of boozy drinks, the cubes are small enough to fit in water bottles, iced coffees, smoothies and baby bottles. This option comes with two trays.
Best Silicone: W&P Everyday Ice Cube Tray
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 W&P option. 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.” He also points out that, “those bags of ice pellets you get from the grocery store make horrible shaker ice because 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.
Best Stainless Steel: Onyx Ice Cube Tray
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 or 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 1.5 x 2 inches. The larger the cube, the slower 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.
Related: The Best Ice Buckets
Best for Clear Ice: W&P Peak Clear Ice Mold
For serious cocktail enthusiasts, invest in a mold that creates show-stopping cubes. This W&P model 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 5.75 inches high). Additionally, as these ice cubes are larger than the average cube, they take up to 24 hours to freeze thoroughly.
Related: The Best Coolers
Best Easy-Release: Kitch Ice Tray
If you often struggle with getting ice out of a tray, consider an easy-release option like these trays from Kitch. These flexible, yet sturdy trays 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 a pack of two (for a total of 32 cubes) or four (for a total of 64 cubes)—perfect when making cocktails for large parties. The ice cube trays are also 100 percent BPA-free and dishwasher safe.
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Kate Dingwall is an experienced spirits writer and glassware collector. She has been writing about the bar and spirits world for six years, including extensive coverage on glassware. She owns almost 200 vintage glasses, from art deco Karl Palda decanters to 1800s-era crystal coupes, and she’s happy to wax poetic about all of them. Her partner thinks she should consider downsizing.