Let’s face it, there are certain cocktails that really do rely on the wonderful powers of crushed ice. Sure, the alcoholic ingredients are important but it’s actually the ice that makes these drinks amazing. Warm weather cocktails like Juleps, Mules and Swizzles, are all made better by a decent helping of crushed ice in their formulation.
Now the recipes for any of the concoctions may not go on about the importance of crushed ice but as any barman, or half decent drinker will tell you, it’s all about the dilution. Most of these drinks are slow sippers and as the ice melts, the drink usually gets just that little bit better.
Not only can crushed ice soften or thin out intense or viscous ingredients like syrups and purees but it also provides an immediate chilling effect on the drink, because there is more surface area.
What we think of as crushed ice can vary in shape, size and texture—from jelly bean-sized pebble ice to fluffy snow-cone ice, depending on the degree to which you break it down.
Now if you don’t have a local artisanal ice service and your refrigerator doesn’t do crushed ice, there are 5 ways you can create your own crushed ice at home. Not only is creating crushed ice easy to do but most of the methods below give you the chance to release some of the frustrations of the day before your guests arrive.
If you are looking to create only a small amount of crushed ice, then breaking it up with a muddler in a cocktail tin can be a very satisfying experience. We do though warn you, do not crush ice with other ingredients. The force that is required to crush ice is far too much for most other ingredients and will destroy more gentle elements like Mint. Bashing the ice to crush it is fine, but if you are muddling other ingredients, do it separately with the proper technique.
If you are the midst of a Zombie apocalypse, or simply at a friends house and you have no tools, crushing ice with the use of a tea towel is a sure way to get the job done. Simply put ice in a clean cloth napkin or tea towel, gather up the ends to make a pouch and then simply smack the pouch on the counter or another tough surface. Be aware that with this method, the cloth will absorb the moisture from the ice and get wet fairly quickly. But hey, when the zombies are at the gate and you just need a Mint Julep to get you through, it certainly does in a pinch.
If you want to look super professional and somewhat artisanal, then you can’t go past a classic bartender’s Lewis bag and a mallet. Essentially, it’s a sturdy canvas bag with a flap, fold, or tie that you can fill with ice cubes and beat till you get those tiny ice fragments. The great thing about a Lewis bag is that it won’t tear, so simply add ice to the bag and take out all your frustrations. Basically, you want to keep bashing away with the ice mallet until it reaches a nice crushed consistency.
Ice Mallet and Lewis Bag set available through cocktailkit.com.au
Hand Cranked Ice Crusher
We’ve been a fan of hand-cranked ice crushers for quite a while and while they won’t last forever, they are relatively cheap and easy to use. Giving a certain mid-century flair to your ice crushing, these models will mill out a few cups of perfect, pebble-sized pieces for a Derby Day batch of Mint Juleps. Try to find a relatively sturdy version and ensure that you are not too brutal and ease the handle back and forth if it gets stuck.
Portable Hand Crank Ice Crusher available through amazon.com
Crushing ice in an electric blender or food processor is a great high-volume/low effort option. Clearly, we’re not talking about super basic blenders here, it will need a decent motor and decent blades. Obviously, you don’t want a sub-par mix of pebbly pieces and powdery, quick-melting snow. If you can find a model with a high-powered motor, then it will make crushed ice in a snap. Some food processors come with a crushed ice attachment, too. The trick is to not blend for too long or it will end up too watery – a few quick pulses should do the trick.
Available from where all good kitchenware is sold