After a week of commuting around Manhattan, we can see why everyone hates New York City in the summer. Warm air + sweaty people + no personal space = everyone standing waaaay too close for comfort. And then your night always starts the same way: you’re out with your pals, you order a drink from the bar and the bartender hands you a cup with more ice than liquid. When you finally get to the bottom it’s essentially all water, and it’s annoying.
Enter: the wonderful world of ice trays. Here are 14 creative ways to stay cool and keep your drink from becoming watered down liquid.
1. Coffee Ice Cubes
If you’ve ever taken more than twenty minutes to finish your iced coffee, you understand the struggle of melted ice and watered down coffee. Behold, the coffee ice cube: an ingenious way to keep your coffee cool and strong till the very last sip. Just pour some leftover coffee into an ice tray, pop it in the freezer, and let it chill for 3-4 hours.
2. Mojito Cubes
The perfect drink for a hot summer day is a mojito, and these cubes will keep yours cool until you finish the pitcher (shhhhh, no one needs to know). The cubes are made of equal parts water, sugar and lime juice. Leave some room to finish them off with rum and garnish each cube with a lime slice and shreds of mint leaves for a subtle flavor boost.
3. Fruit Juice Cubes
If you love fruit, summer is the time to take advantage. Freeze your juice of choice and add a slice of your fave fruit – then add the cubes to a glass of seltzer, water or fruity cocktail. Yum.
4. Milk and Cookie Cubes
On their own, cookies rock. Add a tall glass of milk and they’re invincible. But combine the two into a frozen cube of glory and you’ve created a refreshing, easy-to-use ice cube perfect for your afternoon iced coffee. All you need is milk, Oreos and an ice cube tray.
5. Wine Cubes
Because warm wine is gross and watery wine is even worse. And if you have no wine to spare…
6. “Wine” Cubes
These aren’t actual ice cubes, but they keep your wine nice and chilly while you’re sipping. Freeze your grapes – purple for red, and green for white – and you can add some flavor while keeping your wine cool.
6. Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cubes
It’s like strawberries dipped in chocolate fondue, but cooler (no pun intended). Eat them straight up, in hot chocolate, coffee, or a glass of milk.
7. White Russian Cubes
This classically sweet cocktail is traditionally served with ice in the glass, so make it worth your while by topping it off with milk and coffee cubes instead. Of course you can make them separately, but I like to use a simple, but fancy, layering technique.
Make a pot of coffee (I cheated and used Starbucks Iced Coffee) and add a little bit of vodka to it. Fill your tray 1/4 of the way with the coffee mixture and freeze them all the way. Proceed with a layer of milk, and so on. Be sure to fully freeze the tray after each layer of liquid to achieve this cool effect.
8. Gin & Tonic Cubes
The G and T is as easy as 1, 2, 3 – and so are the cubes to go along with it. The only liquids involved are tonic water, gin, and lime juice, and the ratios are up to you. I recommend half and half with a splash of gin because if there’s too much tonic you’re gonna need to refill your gin veeeery often.
9. Chocolate Cubes
Fact: chocolate makes everything better. Almond milk, coconut milk, regular milk – tbh you could even add it to your chocolate milk and we’d be cool with it. Step 1: melt the chocolate. Step 2: freeze the chocolate. Step 3: eat the chocolate in your drink.
10. Long Island Iced Tea Cubes
Summer’s trashiest (and most evil) cocktail never gets old, so fill your tray 1/2 with Coca-Cola and 1/4 with fresh lemon juice. Finish them off with a splash of gin, rum, tequila and vodka (but not a lot, or they won’t freeze). Add a slice of lemon to jazz it up and keep those LIT’s going all day long.
11. Margarita Cubes
Margs are the key to my heart, so these were the first cocktail cubes I ever made.
Pour 3/4 margarita mix into the ice cube trays, then fill them to the top with fresh lemon juice, lime juice and tequila. A little slice of lemon or lime never hurt anyone, so go ahead and add it.
If your fave part of a margarita is the sugar around the rim, then make yourself some sugar cubes, too. For every 1/4 cup of sugar, add a 1/2 teaspoon of water. The sugar should be crumbly and moist, but not watery. Let the cubes sit at room temperature overnight to harden.
12. Piña Colada Cubes
If you’re feelin’ tropical and want to make yourself a piña colada, shake it up with these cubes. Use the same layering technique as you would for the white russians (or just make half with pineapple juice and half with coconut milk if you’re feeling lazy). Be sure to mix a little bit of rum with the pineapple juice – you can’t forget the alcohol, obviously.
13. Mai Tai Cubes
“Mai Tai” is the Tahitian word for “good,” and having one in your hand is nothing short of that. Fill your tray almost to the rim with OJ, and then top them off with your fave white rum. Put a maraschino cherry in the middle of each for a surprise when the cube has melted.
14. Mint-Infused Ice Cubes
The next time you go to refill your ice tray, place a mint leaf in each cube and watch as your plain old ice turns into a bourgeoisie herb-infused delicacy. How posh of you.
These are only some of the ways that you can keep your drink cool while actually making it taste better. Feel free to come up with other creative cubes for your favorite drink–the possibilities are endless.
Note: Silicone trays are highly recommended for easier cube-removal and cleaning.