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Bartender Cracking/Breaking Ice in Palm

BF and I were at a bar known for their cocktails (drinks $10+). I noticed one of the bartenders holding ice cubes (normal size) in his hand and whacking them with a spoon to break them. He then dumped them in the shaker and continued to make the drink. Didn't see him wash /wipe hands before or after.

Is this normal/acceptable bartender behavior or is it a reason not to return to this bar?

Thanks for satisfying my curiosity.

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    1. If I trust him to have clean enough hands to make my drink, slice and squueze a lime or lemon into the drink, I trust hime to have clean enough hands to handle the ice........

      PLUS.......as my father always said: The alcohol kills the germs

      1 Reply
      1. re: bagelman01

        Thanks. Why would he need to do this? The ice was normal size and it didn't seem like he accomplished much with the couple whacks. The drink it was cloudy and it looked like there were small chips of ice floating. It is a way to slightly dilute the drink?

      2. If it didn't bother the patron, then it's a non-issue unless you're ordering the same cocktail via the same procedure. Was this bartender being clever and unconventional, or was he ill-equipped in the ice department? Whatever your comfort level is, I would follow my instinct.

        FWIW, I've never seen a bartender palm ice and break it with a spoon. Ice picks, sure. Never that though. Hopefully he didn't have strong soap residue or lotion on his hand or the ice would taste of it. Lots of surface area there compared to fingertips.

        6 Replies
        1. re: pinehurst

          cracking ice in the palm of the hand is a really, really old-school bartender move. The cold and the alcohol will take care of darned near anything that could be on his hands.

          Reminds me of the supper clubs of the Midwest.

          1. re: sunshine842

            Very much out of the 70's as I can recall. Made the bartender look "cool."

            1. re: breadchick

              no, it was considered the professional way to crack ice...and still is, based on some of the other posts here.

              1. re: sunshine842

                My father had an ice cracker that was slightly flexible in the longish handle with a stainless steel end. We used to crack ice like this all the time for their "drinky time" drinks. :-)

                Ahhh - here it is!


          2. re: pinehurst

            << I've never seen a bartender palm ice and break it with a spoon>>

            we must go to different bars because i see that practically EVERY time i go out to a bar that serves cocktails made with distilled liquor.

            1. re: westsidegal

              Ummm....since you're in Playa del Rey (West Coast), and pinehurst is in New England (East Coast).....Yes, you definitely go to different bars.

              I've only seen a bartender use a palm ice cracker when I was young and living in NJ. But that was at a higher end restaurant that my parents took me took in the mid to late 1970s. Since then? No, I've not seen it either.

          3. That's a great old time drink maker, Way better ice than the crappy whole cube bar ice.

              1. Back when I was a too young for anything stronger than Dr. Pepper, there was a device being marketed to facilitate exactly this operation. It was a bar spoon with a somewhat longer-than-usual handle made from spring steel, and the makers claimed that it would shatter a palmed cube with one blow. I still see them at yard sales, and should probably get one.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Will Owen

                  Hah - just posted above about that exact ice cracker, Will!

                2. You had an excellent bartender who really cares about his technique. A good bartender washes their hands basically after each cocktail when they wash their tools, and at any point when they need to. When I bartend I wash my hands almost constantly. To the point my hands get chapped pretty bad in winter.

                  Mike answered it in his serious eats article, but to elaborate. Larger cubes and pieces of ice sometimes "jump" out of the mixing glass when stirring a drink. Cracking the ice makes it fit better in the glass and so it stirs easier.

                  I used to crack ice in my palm when using good cubes of "Kold-Draft" ice, the place I manage now has lousy ice so there is no need to do so.

                  1. Was this bartender the one taking the money? If he was handling money and cracking ice cubes with the same hands, then his hands weren't clean.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Querencia

                      unless he was washing his hands regularly...see JMF's post above

                    2. Ah, this brings back memories of my dear old dad (born 1913, a Brit from way back) cracking ice for drinks. He told me that's how it was done in the RAF in WWII. And he did it with such panache, it was a joy to watch.

                      It also goes without saying that his hands were scrupulously washed before and after...