The Lewis Bag: a simple but game-changing gift to home-bartenders everywhere
World Best Bar
Aug 06, 2018
26 November 2020
What doesn’t have quite the same relaxed charm is the idea of bashing away at a soggy bag of frozen cubes trying to create your own crushed ice. Or digging around the frozen aisle of your local supermarket, hunting out this holy grail of the ice kingdom. Or perhaps scraping the ice off your refrigerator door – likely to give your drink a taste just as suspicious as its origin.
While smashing at a sandwich bag full of ice cubes with a rolling pin is an option, as the bag disintegrates and shards fly out left right and centre, you might succeed in creating crushed ice, but you’ll also create a chaotic wet mess.
Thanks to the Lewis bag, it doesn’t have to be this way. No, it’s not a designer handbag. Last seen in 19th century bars, it’s a sturdy canvas bag with a flap that takes DIY ice-crushing to the next level.
Place a dozen or so ice cubes in the bag and fold the flap down. Find a suitable surface, check it’s an acceptable time of day to make a racket, and hammer away until you have lots of tiny icy fragments. Straightforwardly perfect, its triple stitched seams and thick material mean no chance of tearing or leaking, while the flap keeps any ice shards from escaping. It also wicks away excess moisture so no risk of diluting your cocktail with overly wet ice.
You can use your own mallet, preferably a soft, wide one – a meat tenderizer works best – or you can purchase a Lewis bag that comes with mallet included – as offered by Cocktail Kingdom. Although – sneaky secret – you can also use coin bags. Yes, those staple accessories of old-school bank robbers can now be found hassle-free on eBay. Or you can even make your own: the Kitchn has a tutorial on creating your own Lewis bag out of a pair of Levi’s.
One important thing to remember, however. Frozen water can start to smell after time so make sure to wash your Lewis bag regularly. Best to do this in the dishwasher rather than washing machine – unless you want your mint julep to taste like floral laundry detergent.
Sound simple? That’s because it is. The Lewis Bag is an essential addition to any home-bar toolkit, an ingenious bartending hack, and also a great way to burn off some pent up rage after a week cooped up at work.
But there remains an unsolved mystery at the heart of the Lewis bag. Why is it called Lewis? Attempts to discover its eponymous origin have led nowhere, leaving experts stumped. And so your guess is as good as ours.