Fancy clear ice melts in every corner of the internet these days. TikTok influencers are going all out, trying to outdo each other’s collections of ice balls, clear ice, foam ice and more icy creations. Instagram reels reveal a frozen rainbow of molds, cubes, flowers and fruits—some even set against a soundtrack of cracking and crunching for maximum ASMR satisfaction.
But professional ice nerds know that artisanal ice is about more than just frozen water. Here’s how ice went from the ho-hum crushed stuff to exquisite works of art for your cocktail glass.
The Growth of Artisanal Ice
“The great thing about an icy arts and crafts hobby is that it costs very little,” says Camper English, author of The Ice Book: Cool Cubes, Clear Spheres, and Other Chill Cocktail Crafts. “Also, you can drink both your successes and your failures—or just water the plants with them.”
English is one of many spirit experts excited about the growing ice phenomenon. “I’ve seen more people in the U.S. being creative with ice,” he says. “I don’t know if that’s just because Americans like ice more than any other population of the planet, or if it’s because… we have all that freezer space we dedicate to frozen things in America… we freeze everything.”
Many artisanal ice producers contend it must be crystal clear, and English has spent the better part of a decade developing and sharing a technique, known as directional freezing, for creating gorgeous transparent cubes at home. But, we’ll get to that soon.
Ice enthusiasts on social media have gone as far as to designate the often frigid second week of January as “Clear Ice Week,” although it evidently has year-round appeal. Indeed, the hashtag #cleariceweek has become a hot spot for showing off tricks like ice diamond cocktails and custom-etched cubes from January to December. Miguel Buencamino, a South Carolina-based mixologist who goes by @holycityhandcraft, says he started the hashtag back in 2016 to spotlight his exploration of English’s directional freezing method.