From WaterTok to IceTok, how social media is bringing ice in from the cold

For some, how you chill your drink is now an indicator of wealth and status. Here’s why boring cubes are no longer cool …

TikTok users are going ice, ice crazy. Photo: Kaffee Meister / Unsplash
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Spherical, filled with edible glitter, nugget-shaped or, if you’re Martha Stewart, chipped straight off an iceberg you pass by on a cruise – ice trends are heating up on social media.

TikTok is awash with videos and posts about ice – showing different flavours, textures, shapes and freezing methods – with videos of people creating different moulds viewed in their millions.

Starbucks made headlines in May when it announced plans to switch from cubes to nugget ice, sparking an online discourse about the merits of smaller pellet shapes over blocks and how it affects the quality of cold beverages.

We're in 'peak ice'

Ice itself has become an aesthetic, which, as author Amy Brady argues in her book Ice: From Mixed Drinks to Skating Rinks: A Cool History of a Hot Commodity, has brought us to a point of "peak ice".

Or, as author Camper English suggests, we’re firmly in the era of "status ice".

Social media's fascination with ice was born out of the recent WaterTok trend, where people posted about different varieties of flavour-infused water.

Many who posted owned expensive home ice machines, which they used for their drinks.

TikTok user Don Martin, who posts as @headonfirepod, recently shared a pricey find at a supermarket. “You’ve heard of bagged ice, but have you ever heard of boxed ice?” he asks.

“Just in a mildly bougie grocery store and I saw this boxed ice. It comes in cubes or spheres. It is $12 for four ice spheres. They were out of stock of the box of $18 spheres, he said they can’t keep it in stock it’s so popular. I’ve never been called ‘poor’ by ice before.”

Ice as a status symbol

Brady told Vanity Fair that ice is repacked as a high-end luxury product “every time there’s a disruption in the ice trade or a new way of thinking about ice".

Ice has always been something to strive for, she added.

“It’s like it’s imbued with this sense of aspiration," she said. "There aren’t many other places in the world that have that upward class mobility – or at least that illusion of upward class mobility – and so many people are always striving to reach the next social class, which is what ice represents.”

Taking things to the next level, celebrity home and lifestyle expert Stewart recently posted about her cruise around Greenland and Iceland on Instagram. Sharing photos of the iceberg from which staff chipped a block off for drinks, she wrote: “We actually captured a small iceberg for our cocktails tonight.”

Commenters were quick to call Stewart’s actions out of touch, with one branding it "tone deaf".

Another added: “So as the climate warms due to the profits of a couple of thousand people, billionaires vacation to the melting icebergs, scoop them up and use them to keep their cocktails cold. That sounds like a line from a dystopian novel.”

What are the new trends in ice?

TikTok is awash with videos titled “ice drawer restock” and “gourmet ice drawer”. Content showing videos of people filling up and showing off ice cube trays, as well as pulling out ice drawers are the most popular.

Novelty-shaped ice, including bars, hearts and butterflies, are popular as are videos of fruits and vegetables, such as lemon, orange and cucumber, as well as herbs, encased in ice.

Frozen coffee cubes are another popular trend, promising to prevent iced coffees from tasting watery.

Another trend is for having clear ice rather than the cloudy ice, which happens when too much air gets trapped inside the mould.

Author English highlights a technique called "directional freezing" for achieving perfectly clear cubes. It's done by insulating all sides apart from the top of the water container for making ice, usually using styrofoam.

Updated: September 02, 2023, 4:51 AM