Martini mixing question: How do they get those tiny bits of ice in there?

Whenever I’m out and I order a martini, if it’s shaken, there always seem to be tiny bits of ice in the finished drink, even though it’s supposed to be straight up. Actually, though, I like having the ice in there, but am having a hard time duplicating the effect when I mix one at home. The closest I can come is by first shaking, and then opening the shaker in the middle, sort of like cracking an egg. By keeping the opening very narrow I can allow a few of the tinier ice chips into the glass, without (hopefully) getting the larger chunks. Professional bartenders seem to get the “ice effect” effortlessly by merely pouring through a strainer. I’ve tried using a strainer but it doesn’t have the same result.

Has anyone else wondered about this? Am I using the wrong kind of ice, which is just from ordinary plastic ice trays in the freezer?

They’re probably working from smaller cubes, and they’re not going to be anywhere near as cold (and therefore solid…) as cubes from your freezer. They’ll break up a lot more, and present more surface area to your drink, so it gets cold faster, even though the ice isn’t as cold, and there would also be more ice chips to end up in your drink.

Yes, starting with bar-style ice works better: way more surface area.

As a test, you could make up a couple trays of ice where you only half-fill the trays, then put them into an ice bucket and let them warm up to the point where they’re starting to melt a little before you make your martinis at home.

Ah, bar ice. IMO, the main reason why drinking at a bar is superior to drinking at home. The ice cubes in bars can’t be found anywhere else. No refrigerators make these and you can’t buy this type of ice anywhere.

To answer the OP, the cubes are small and melt faster, allowing them to fit through the small holes in a shaker.

Make your next martini in a motel room; same kind of icemakers.

Based on my experience of home automatic icemakers I wouldn’t want the excreta of one in my shaker.

I suppose I could simulate bar ice by letting the ice melt in the shaker for some time and then pouring out the excess water before mixing the drink. One thing I’ve never seen a bartender do, however, is use a perforated top to a shaker; instead, they always seem to take off the entire top part off the shaker then use a strainer.

Yeah, I use the steel shaker and the pint glass, then pour through a strainer. Bar style. I get better results from bag o ice, like you can buy at a gas station, than with “homemade” ice. Specially if I crack it up a bit first.

As an alternative theory, I always assumed the little ice flakes actually formed in the glass.

I figure it this way:

[li]The glass has usually been kept in a freezer, and when it’s removed it gets a coating of frost (i.e., water) on it.[/li][li]The gin has generally been kept cold, if not below 32 F.[/li][li]The liquor is shaken with ice, also (obviously) below freezing.[/li][/ul]

So: The gin is shaken (stirred, whatever) with ice, ensuring that it’s well below freezing. The glass has been out of the freezer for a minute or two, letting the frost on it melt into tiny bits of water. Add ice-cold gin to a slightly damp glass, and voila, the moisture on the glass turns to little ice flakes.

I can’t pretend to have done any serious study on this, but it seems plausible to me.

Nope. First of all, very few bars keep liquor chilled; it’s just not worth the effort, and in any case you would not want to serve gin at 32 degrees, lest you “bruise” it. (Vodka, on the other hand, can and according to some should be chilled to subzero temperatures, but most bars don’t bother.) Frost will form on a chilled glass, but it is just that: frost, which melts quickly. The slivers you see in the drink come from the ice, which, as others have mentioned, is the special “bar ice” that only comes from commerical ice machines–not only are the cubes smaller, but they’re also hollow and kind of grainy, leading them to fracture easily. You cannot replicate this effect with ice trays and I have yet to find a dispenser in a refrig that produces the same consistancy.

You can get a similar effect by chipping block ice in a sink and collecting the fragments, but that’s a lot of work. Consider “good ice” to be part of the premium you are paying for in the bar.


Alternatively, if you have a blender or food processor with a powerful motor and heavy duty blades you can chop ice; this won’t give you a nice smooth blend like you’ll get with bar ice, but you’ll end up with a few “ping pong balls” of ice plus the bottom full of ice shards which work well in a cocktail.

As for doing “ice cream drinks” at home, the best advice is to use sherbert of the appropriate flavor. (Using actual ice cream in place of heavy cream and ice seems to make the drinks too syrupy.)


Okay, I work at a restaurant, and here’s a few tips that may help you out:

When you make ice in ice trays, let it freeze until the edges are a few mm thick, and then pour the middle out. You may have to puncture the top of the cubes to do so. This will better approximate the so called “bar ice”, and will allow the thin edges to break off into the martini itself.

Make sure to freeze your glasses for at least a few hours.

It won’t hurt to freeze the alcohol, too.


Huh, I get the teeny little ice slivers in my drinks at home. I get bag ice, but it usually ends up all clumped up so I beat it a bit with the meat hammer.

That must be the secret.

Good bars chill Tanqueray and other top shelf gins.

Cracking ice with an ice pick can also produce the result you seek, Spectre, a la Sharon Stone. The pick shards the ice.

Chilled, perhaps (i.e. at 50 degrees, like wine), but not at 32 degrees F. Doing so will make a gin taste harsh. And while I’ve seen martini bars that keep clear liquors chilled, most places just don’t bother with it; too much work and undercounter space. Heck, I don’t bother doing it at home, though I will chill the shaker and frost the cocktail glasses; I don’t know that it really makes much of a difference, especially if you let the liquor sit in ice for a minute before pouring (which you should do to allow it to “develop a body” from the water.)


Some martini snobs like their gin frozen. The vermouth apparently strips the nasty edge off it. One guy from Dubai said he followed Kingsley Amis’s views, and had me rinse a glass in vermouth and ice, then pour in the gin. It seemed to me that was pure gin with a dribble of vermouth, but he was pretty adamant about it.

Depends on where you go. I’ve been to a few places where the server brings the tray of drinks, and while holding the tray in one hand, uses the other to put the glass on the table. Then, still with one hand, he or she takes the shaker (prefilled with gin, vermouth, and ice) from the tray and shakes it, pops the top off, pours the liquid through the shaker’s perforated top into the glass, and adds an olive. Then he or she serves the rest of the drinks off the tray.

Makes for a great martini and a great show, actually.

There you go; getting recommendations on gin from a guy from Dubai is like asking a Scotsman advice on playing tennis. :wink:

I’m not really a gin drinker, except for the occasional martini (you can keep the dessicated olives, thank you), so my opinion on the issue is hardly authoritative, but excessively chilled gin justs tastes raw, almost burnt. Then again, I think it is a mortal sin to put Irish whiskey or good Scotch over ice, or in any way reduce the temperature below room temp. But I’ve seen people do all manner of crazy things to their liquor, including one woman in a hotel bar who insisted on mixing Kahlua and Courvoisier Napoleon over rocks. I don’t remember what she called it, just that it nearly brought tears to my eyes. Some people shouldn’t be permitted to breed.


I drink a lot of martinis, so I’ll toss my $.02 in on some of the issues that people have brought up…

If the vodka or gin is already in the freezer, then it doesn’t really need to be shaken with ice, now does it? If anything, this would just make it warmer. Some ice might break up and end up in the drink this way, but I’ve never tried it. Most poeple who store booze in the freezer don’t shake or stir with ice at all. They do that specifically to avoid the ice.

Martini glasses only need to be chilled for 10-15 minutes in the freezer. The trick is to increase the coldness level a bit, or simply leave the door open for a minute. When the freezer kicks on, make sure that the glass(es) are in the path of the cold flowing air. They get about as cold as they are ever going to when they are covered in frost, which doesn’t take long. Of course, this is all simply to use in emergencies since any reputable martini drinker will always have a few glasses in the freezer waiting to go. :wink:

I sometimes get tiny bits of ice in my martinis at home. I drink shaken vodka martinis. I shake 50 times, very hard, using room temperature Ketel One. Some people loathe water in their martini, but I don’t mind a little, which is what I get when using this method. I have turned back martinis in bars when there is too much water, though. This happens when it is allowed to sit on the counter before being served. You get a lot of melting ice also when you let it sit before shaking. The shaking makes everything really cold quickly, so less ice melts.

Vermouth is optional at best these days. Rinsing a glass with vermouth and then dumping it out before making the drink is a perfectly acceptable way of measuring it, if you must use it at all.

My newest favorite: Sake martinis. For Xmas I got a jar of olives soaking in sake. I use two of them in my drink and the resulting tinge of flavor is very pleasant.

In my experience, putting the gin in the freezer is all the more reason to shake with ice, as you need the water from the ice for a proper martini. Otherwise the gin seems too harsh. Putting the gin in the freezer can let you get away with new ice instead of old ice and can make up for not freezing the glass well before hand. We use bag ice too, not homemade as we get distilled water and the ice is so hard, it doesn’t give the same effect. Little ice cubes help, and we sometimes freeze those ourselves, but that is a lot more effort for us than a bag of ice.