Ice is an essential component in creating almost all cocktails, smoothies and frappes. It can also lift foods such as a refreshing gazpacho and for shocking blanched vegetables to retain their brilliant vibrancy and texture.
Yet, frozen water is often an unsung element, overshadowed by the other ingredients that go into making a drink or dish. With balmy summer evenings entertaining al fresco almost in our sights, it is time to bring this bartender and chef’s friend to the fore.
The shape of the ice needed will depend on the finished product being made. Standard cubes will do for those cocktails and drinks that use ice only in shaking or blending for a slushie consistency. But if ice plays a critical part in the show when serving, several forms can work.
A giant ice block in bourbon is a must to prevent too much melting and dilution, while a large ball of crystal-clear ice elevates the sophistication of an old fashioned. For fruit juices, mocktails or gin, cubes big enough to suspend lusciously red berries add a charming pop of colour and juicy delights for eating when melting frees them from their frosty shell.
In anticipation of the summer tipples we plan to sip, we found and tested some of the best ice moulds available now. All are made from silicone, some have lids, and some make conventional cubes, but others among them transform water into more novel shapes. They are all reasonably priced too, ranging from £1 to no more than £13.
A pro tip for making clear ice: boil the water from the tap twice, leave it to cool a little and then pour into a mould. With that taken care of, this calls for stocking up the liquor cabinet in preparation for those long summer evenings in the garden with fabulous company.
Viners barware round silicone ice mould
Easy and mess-free to fill through small openings at the top of each ball shape, this mould is nothing like the traditional ice cube trays of old that resulted in a trail of water from the tap to the freezer. After a few hours in the freezer, lift the leak-proof lid to reveal four perfect spheres of ice that will enhance the look and chill of any drink – we even tried them in a simple glass of cola.
Each ball is 4.5cm and they melt slowly to prevent drinks from being watered down. We liked that the construction of the mould includes feet on the bottom to keep it level in the freezer draw, meaning no spills and a great shape every time. This mould could also be used to create frozen yoghurt or fruit ice pops if you were to use sticks that could fit into the holes in the lids. Plus, it is easy to clean, dishwasher-safe and is a bargain at less than £5.
Tesco ice cube tray
No budget is too tight for plenty of ice with this mould. It makes ten ice cubes with rounded corners, and each is released easily from the flexible silicone when needed. The super-low price of this tray means you could have several in the freezer to produce plenty of ice ready for crushing or using in blended smoothies or cocktails. No lid means there was a bit of spillage when we walked across the kitchen from the sink to the freezer and it is handwash only, but at a mere £1, there is no call for complaints.
Blush crystal ice mould
We had seen nothing like this before. This is a show-stopping ice mould that creates a gleaming crystal to sit beautifully in your drink. We popped it into a generous glass of pink gin and tonic and it looked right at home, shimmering away. The seal on the mould was tight enough to prevent any leaks, and it was easy to fill with water through the hole at the top. Plus, its flat bottom means it stands up straight in the freezer to achieve that ideal crystal shape.
The only thing that could elevate the charm of ice made with this is adding tiny berries, rose petals or lavender to set inside the water. The mould is handwash only and you may need more than one if you are entertaining guests for drinks – we can imagine people would be quite put out if their glass came without this ice sculpture inside.
OXO covered silicone ice cube tray
Inside a white rigid plastic frame are two turquoise silicone trays that make an impressive 48 uniformly shaped ice cubes with satisfyingly sharp edges. The small cocktail cubes measure 2.2cm and are ideal for drinks that require plenty of ice. Run water into the bottom tray to the fill line before stacking the second tray on top to fill and then secure the lid to transport it to the freezer shelf. The cover both prevents spills and stops the ice inside from absorbing any odours while freezing for a clean and fresh taste. This mould is safe for a spin in the dishwasher.
Joie ice stick tray
Few things are as ghastly as taking a sip from your bottle on a hot day to find your drink is tepid. This extremely affordable ice mould solves that problem. Rather than cubes, it makes nine slim ice batons that fit easily into the mouth of any bottle for keeping drinks refreshingly chilled. The flexible silicone mould means the sticks are released easily once frozen, and a solid plastic lid prevents spills in the freezer and protects the ice against odours. When it needs a wash, it can go in the dishwasher, and it is BPA free. It’s currently out of stock, but keep checking back.
ProCook ice cube tray
If you expect to host several guests who will be wanting plenty of cool drinks, these lidded silicone moulds will allow you to create dozens of ice cubes without taking up too much space in the freezer because they stack safely on top of each other. Each tray makes 12 ice blocks formed into a chunky size that is great for most drinks at 3.1 x 3.3 x 4cm, and they have slightly rounded corners for an attractive finish.
The silicone on this ice tray feels more flexible than most, and we found it even easier and quicker than usual to pop out the ice. Once you have said goodbye to your guests, you can put the ice trays straight into the dishwasher, so they are clean and ready for use again.
Uberstar giant ice sphere mould
When a tipple is so sophisticated that only a giant globe of ice will do, this mould is the answer. The bottom half is made from a firm silicone and has a flat base for keeping it suitably upright during freezing, while the flexible top half features a small opening into which to pour the water. After a few hours in the freezer, remove the top to unveil a beautifully shining and smooth 6cm sphere of ice.
We found the ice ball chilled drinks exceptionally well, and it was incredibly slow-melting to prevent from watering down expensive liquors. The size of this mould lends itself wonderfully to being filled with slices of citrus fruit for added zing and colour or herbs that pair well with your drink of choice. It is also dishwasher safe.
Lakeland giant ice cube tray
The ice blocks made in this mould are strikingly large. The sharp-edged 4.5cm cubes look fantastic, and their generous size means they can accommodate fruit or herbs for extra flavour and visual appeal. They melt slowly and keep their shape for a considerable length of time too. Beyond forming ice, this mould has a multitude of other uses, including for storing and freezing baby food, prepared spice pastes and frozen desserts. Whatever you choose to make in it, it can be cleaned thoroughly afterwards in the dishwasher.
The tray itself is flexible silicone, which makes removing the ice a breeze. It also features a stiff and sturdy top thanks to a concealed metal frame that adds stability, maintains its shape and prevents spills when carrying to the freezer.
The verdict: Ice cube trays
The Viners round silicone mould makes ice balls in the ideal size for most and has sparked within us a love for popping ice spheres in drinks. The spill-free lid, ease of use and cleaning and low price make it a no-brainer for our best buy.
A close second is the Blush crystal ice mould because having an ice crystal in drinks is a fun novelty that feels rather special, and the product itself is robust, excellent quality and easy to work with.
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