If you read these lines, chances are you've been to a bar where they served cocktails with stamped ice cubes or saw a clip on social media. In professional bartending, these branded ice cubes for garnishing cocktails became increasingly popular several years ago.
But you don't have to go to a bar to get this innovative cocktail garnish. You can also easily do them at home. All you need is some crystal clear ice cubes (it just looks better when clear) and an ice stamp.
What are Ice Stamps?
An ice stamp is a nifty tool made of brass used to decorate ice cubes with custom patterns or brandings. Most of these stamps are pre-designed with popular patterns like honeycomb, waves, lines, or flowers. However, some sellers let you customize the stamps to create your unique stamp design for creating branded ice cubes.
Besides classic ice stamps, there are also ice-design plates that do the same thing.
How an Ice Stamp Works
Stamping ice is a quick and easy task, you only need to press the stamp firmly on the ice, and within 2-3 seconds, the ice cube is branded. Use large, frosted, or clear cubes with a flat surface for the best result.
That is possible due to the excellent thermal conductivity of metals like brass. The better the thermal conductivity of a material, the faster it will melt the frozen surface. As soon as the brass pattern hits the surface, the energy transfer of thermal conduction melts the ice.
Copper is an even better conductor  but is more expensive and, therefore, only rarely used for making ice stamps.
Here's a video that shows just how fast and easy this process is:
Do You Have To Heat or Warm An Ice Stamp?
You don't need to heat an ice stamp. Room temperature is enough to perform a stamping with ease. Only when you want to stamp a large number of ice cubes in a row, I advise gently warming the stamp or letting it rest on a warm surface after each cube.
For a single cube, room temperature is enough to make stamping work. As soon as the brass stamp hits the ice surface, the energy transfer of thermal conduction melts the ice and creates a pattern.
Are Ice Stamp Plates Better than Regular Stamps?
Ice stamp plates are currently trending on Instagram and TikTok. They have several areas with different patterns and shapes and sell for $160 to $220. To create patterns on your ice cubes, put the ice on the desired pattern of the plate and wait a few seconds.
They're very similar to a regular ice stamp. I wouldn't call them superior to stamps as the result are very similar, but stamps only cost a fraction of the plates. However, what these ice stamp plates can do, is offer a variety of design options and the possibility to create patterned ice sticks (not only cubes).
How Long Does it Take to Stamp Ice Cubes?
The process of creating a pattern on an ice cube with a stamp or ice plate takes only 2-3 seconds. People often can't believe it when they see the videos but it's really that quick. Simply press the stamp on the surface of an ice cube and hold it for a couple of seconds.
When working with an ice plate, you can just put the cube on top of your desired pattern and wait for 2 to 3 seconds. Thermal conduction and gravity do the rest.
Can I Use Wax Seal Stamps for Stamping Ice Cubes?
The short answer is yes. But it won't work as well as an ice stamp. Let me explain:
The best way to get your logo or initials stamped on an ice cube is by using a thick and deeply engraved brass stamp. With those, you get a branded cube within a few seconds.
Wax stamps are often also made of brass but with a lot less material. While they might work without prior heating, it takes way longer to achieve a decent result.
Another disadvantage is depth. A wax seal stamp won't imprint deeply enough to create strong effects. Ice cube stamps have extra depth to produce a clear and long-lasting impression on the cubes.
But saying that, if you have a wax stamp at home that you want to use, give it a try before you purchase an extra tool. If the outcome is what you imagine, you saved yourself some money.
The Difference Between Wax and Ice Stamps
There is another essential difference between stamps for ice cubes and wax stamps besides material and depth.
When stamping wax, the artwork gets embossed into the material. Warm wax is soft, almost fluid, and allows stamps to sink in and create the artwork.
Ice, in turn, is solid, and embossing does not work. Instead, impressions are easier debossed into the material. So a stamp designed to decorate ice is a reversed version of a wax seal stamp.
Size & Dimensions
Stamps for ice cubes can come in different sizes and shapes. The usual diameter is between 1.5 (40mm) and 2 inches (50mm). The most common ones are round or squared, but you can see rectangular-shaped stamps occasionally, too.
The engravings are usually 0.07 inches (1.8mm) deep but can be as deep as 0.12 inches (3mm). For comparison, the depth of way stamps ranges between 0.03 (0,8mm) and 0.04 inches (1mm).
High-quality products start from $60. These stamps are usually custom-made and more expensive than a basic wax seal stamp. Also, the required extra depth causes extra costs.
Compared to the wax seal version, the personalization of an ice cube stamp usually takes double to triple the time. Further, you also need more material as the stamping head is deeper and bigger.
Cheaper versions are available starting at $30. However, if you want a custom design, I recommend paying a few bucks extra and getting a quality one.
Considering these stamps are usually custom-made, they are still quite affordable; -plus, you only have to buy them once.
More Ways to Amp Up Your Cocktail Garnish
Ice stamps are a great addition to your selection of bar tools, no matter if you just started mixing or have years of experience at a (home) bar.