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Jul 1, 2012 08:35 AM

Icy, Icy, Icy Martini Tool? [moved from Manhattan]

Does anyone know what tool it is that makes tiny little ice slivers in

Saw a bartender in NYC do this one time with some type of mallet, just pounding away until it turned to slivers.

I am wondering if anyone is familiar with this tool? I have searched on line, and nothing. Unless it's just a mallet like a mojito mallet?

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  1. I'm with you on liking the slivers of ice in a Martini.

    But what's interesting is that Martini purists hate them. They view them as a flaw. That's why, technically -- James Bond notwithstanding -- Martinis are properly stirred and not shaken: to minimize the little ice slivers or avoid them entirely.

    Having said all that, the bartender you saw wasn't pounding the ice to create little slivers, but rather to smash the ice in order to increase cooling when shaking (think about it and you can see why that is). Purists don't use ice cubes for shaking, but rather broken ice. (There's a term for it, but I can't think of it.) There are lots of devices you can buy to break up the ice.

    But none is as cool as a mallet.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Sneakeater

      That makes so much sense now, breaking the ice, of course ! I have heard of an alternative method to create the shavings too - and that is just to shake the hell out of it for a long time.

      1. re: Ambiance

        Bartenders working with cubes or big blocks of ice will also crack them using the back of a bar spoon.

      2. re: Sneakeater

        The broken ice is called cracked ice. And, to OP- the slivers come from hard shaking, not specifically from the pounding- you wouldn't shake a drink with ice pounded into slivers because it would water down the drink far too much. As others have said, the ice slivers and other results of shaking (frothiness, cloudiness) are not desirable in a spirits-only drink like the Martini, but are great in a fruit juice drink like the Margarita or Daiquiri. Oh, and the tool used to make mojitos is called a muddler- it's like a mini baseball bat and is different since it's used for mashing fruit and herbs in the glass, never for breaking up ice.

      3. A hard shake, and a loose strain, will give you ice slivers. Something you Don't want in a martini. A martini is a stirred drink. When stirred you get a sexy, silky, oily texture. When shaken you get aeration. Also the ice slivers melt on top of the drink, watering it down too much. Although shaking is good with drinks with lemon or lime juice. Ian Fleming and his James Bond ruined the martini with that whole shaken, not stirred nonsense.

        The basic rule is stir drinks with all clear ingredients. Shake ones that have juice, opaque, or cloudy ingredients.

        When you use a mallet, or very large muddler to crack ice, you do it in a canvas bag, called a Lewis bag. You try to crush the ice as fine as possible, to almost snow, to use in drinks like a julep or anything else that calls for finely crushed ice. The Lewis bag soaks up water and gives you dryer crushed ice.

        I have a half dozen mallets and almost two dozen Lewis bags. I tend to use bank money bags that are made for coins. Printed with a $ on one side.

        My friend Steve at EO in NYC is known worldwide for his mallets. He even has custom ones made that he sells with proceeds going to charity. Here's an Esquire interview.

        14 Replies
        1. re: JMF

          Actually, the real damage James Bond did to Martinis was post-Fleming, when the producers of the movies made from Flemings's books entered into a licensing deal with Smirnoff that led to the Jame Bond characters' somehow convincing the world that a Martini is a drink made with -- it makes me sick to even say it -- vodka rather than gin.

          1. re: Sneakeater

            If I hadn't thrown up gin on my high school graduation night, a night I will never forget since we were woken up on the beach in Rhode Island by the police, I would give gin another try.

            1. re: Ambiance

              I had a similar college experience with gin (last MASH episode - way too many double martinis). but found that the Aviation is the perfect drink to reintroduce you to gin. I am now a gin lover again (though I have trouble still with martinis).

          2. re: JMF

            I know, stirred. I suppose I not a purist, obviously. But, I love them icy cold. Thank you so much for the advice on the Lewis bag. It was through martini vision, but I could have sworn he made them with a wooden mallet - actually quite thin and long and broke the ice in a silver shaker. Guess he, like I , need to go to martini school.

            1. re: JMF

              Ah, here's an opinion on Perfect martini....that says you won't "bruise" vodka like you can bruise gin Excerpt:
              9. Vigorously shake the shaker in a violent up and down motion. When you feel you've done it enough, do it some more. It's important that the shaking sliver the ice. In classic Gin Martini preparation it is frequently said that a violent shaking will "bruise" the Gin. That may well be, but Vodka is a hearty liquid that blooms in its return to the near-frozen state from whence it came.

              1. re: Ambiance

                Most of we Cocktail Snobs would say that vodka is a flavorless alcohol delivery system that can't be "bruised" because there's nothing to bruise there.

                1. re: Sneakeater

                  I'd say that there's no such thing as "bruising" a spirit. And gin is nothing more than flavored vodka in my book.

                  As JMF pointed out, it's all about texture. A stirred cocktail has a very different one than a shaken cocktail. But people should do, and drink, as they like, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else!

                2. re: Ambiance

                  I'm rolling my eyes at Mr Coudal's advice. Expensive vodka is bad enough.. freezing it and then shaking it with ice?? whaaaaa? Commitment to the craft is commendable (and fine choices on garnish!) but missing the mark for what I want.

                  And Ambiance- I am heathen scum in that I actually like shaking my gin until I get shards.. (my buddy Lou calls it "sleet" I think) because I love it icy cold. And I under pour the vermouth.. and I use lemon zest as garnish. Another chow hounder ridiculed me as merely wanting to guzzle a glass of cold gin.. and I was all "sounds good to me!"

                  To each his own for sure.. even Vodka drinkers deserve love (in case my wife is reading my posts!)

                  1. re: e_bone

                    Some bartenders try to strain out the ice crystals that float on top of a shaken drink (Sasha Petraske school) but an excellent one confessed to me a while ago that he's actually grown to love that first, freezing cold sip. He now heads up the program at Death & Co.

                    1. re: e_bone

                      LOL....Like the "sleet" term - perfect description ! Cheers to actually enjoying what you are drinking to the nth degree, body and soul. I for one, feel the same way about a perfectly cold and icy vodka martini. (perhaps it should be called a Vartini, so as not to offend). I actually think we should start pitying the purists, since it sounds like they aren't emotionally attached.

                    2. re: Ambiance

                      Most cocktail nerds and bartenders don't think Coudal's methodology is any good.

                      A retort:

                      1. re: kathryn

                        LOL at retort.. He's still wrong on a few counts but he's a better writer than me so he wins.

                        1. re: kathryn

                          Makes me want to like gin. How classy they are. Love the quote "Shake hard, but elegantly."

                      2. re: JMF

                        A hard shake with a few large dry, cold cubes and ice cold gin from the freezer doesn't give me slivers, but an clear, icy cold martini. PS. I don't shake the vermouth, but stir it together with the gin in the glass.

                      3. You can get a Lewis bag at Cocktail Kingdom:

                        The hours are Mon - Fri 10:30 am-4:30 pm and I don't think you need an appointment any more.

                        Go to a woodworking store and buy a joiner's mallet, the mallet is just an ordinary carpenter's mallet.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: kathryn

                          Thanks Kathryn ! just ordered ! And thanks for the carpenter's mallet tip.

                          I started thinking about making a martini early this morning. I wanted to buy a beautiful martini glass for my sister's birthday. Amazingly enough, found a $60 Orrefors Balans glass on "" for $7.95.

                          Can't wait until 5pm

                        2. I am a heretic, because I love my gin martini (it's a redundancy, but to clarify for the vodkatini drinkers) as follows,. I fill my glass with ice and add a a capfull or two of Noilly Prat vermouth, swirl it, and save until I have shaken my gin. I put 7 ice cubes in my large shaker, add gin that I took from my freezer (3 oz) and shake for 40 vigorous shakes, and strain into my now emptied glass, and add a couple of new cubes. I know it is cold enough when I hear the shush of the gin and sleet pouring into the glass. There is nothing better. Also, the best martini I have ever had was served by a bartender at the Churchill Room in the Brown Hotel in Denver. And it was served with 2 blue cheese stuffed colossal olives. For once, the salad didn't detract from the drink. Superb.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: DavidA06488

                            I really think we are on a similar wavelength DA0.. but I am not sure I understand what you do with your vermouth.. do you just throw it out along with the ice that cooled your glass? If so you're wasting a heck of a lot of vermouth! My technique is similar.. but I leave my martini glasses in the freezer.. I pull them out before serving.. I put a small amount in the lid of the vermouth cap and add that to the gin before shaking (like a wild man as you do). I find it interesting that you freeze your gin (someone who likes unctuous, viscous style martinis (very strong) and yet shakes like mad to get them cool and diluted (less strong).

                            Elaborate a bit? I may learn something from you here...

                            +1 on the Churchill Room btw. If you are in Denver let me know and I'll tell you of a couple KILLER martini destinations of the sort that shake them as we like.

                            1. re: e_bone

                              Sometimes I will use the vermouth, sometimes I throw it out. I don't have room in my freezer for the glass, even for a short while (the gin takes up too much room). I find the shaking doesn't make the drink less strong, because the sleet is actually the water in the gin that is frozen out (precipitated?), I believe. Also, with both the gin and the ice at freezer temperature, there is less chance of dilution. It just gets colder. I don't shake the vermouth with the gin. BTW, I keep the vermouth in the refrigerator, so it's cold as well.
                              I happen to like blue cheese stuffed olives with my drink. I can't decide whether a good Gorgonzola or a Spanish blue makes a better stuffer. I hate pimiento in my olives. What they put in them are insipid color bits with no flavor.