Before the days of 'pebble' or 'nugget' ice (those perfect little pellets you see in cocktails that once called for crushed ice) there was... well, actual crushed ice.
Today, we're taking it back to to the 19th century where the Lewis Bag was a staple in almost every cocktail bar. It's a sturdy canvas bag with an accompanying wooden mallet. You fill the bag with cubes of ice and wack the hell out of it with the mallet until you've achieved your desired size and consistency of crushed ice.
The canvas bag has advantages of both durability and water absorption, leaving you with relatively dry crushed ice for your cocktails. Over do it with the mallet and you'll probably end up with shaved ice, but with a little practice you'll be making proper juleps, cobblers, and swizzles in no time.
While the Lewis Bag is rarely used in modern cocktail bars because it isn't totally efficient for large volume drink preparation, it's perfect for the home bartender looking to make exceptional 'crushed ice' style cocktails at home.
Given our affinity for tiki drinks, we grabbed our new Bull in China Lewis Bag and made ourselves a Mai Tai. Recipe below!
3/4 oz lime juice
3/8 oz orgeat
3/8 oz curacao
1 oz jamaican rum
1 oz agricole rhum
Combine ingredients in a small shaking tin. Dry shake, transfer into a tiki mug (or double rocks glass), and mound with crushed ice. Garnish excessively and enjoy!
*Adapted from a recipe by Trader Vic