Nothing cools a drink faster than dumping crushed ice into it. That’s because, unlike an ice cube, there’s more surface area for the liquid to be in contact with. But that’s not the only benefit.
When making fruit cocktails, crushed ice is preferred because it melts quickly. The melt water mellows the alcohol content and then marries it with the drink’s intense fruity flavor so what you get is a smoother and enjoyable beverage.
But there are as many types of ice makers as there are types of crushed ice. They may look crushed but they can vary in shape, size and texture. There’s the usual crushed one made from bullet ice or the fluffy snowy type that’s preferred for making snow cones.
And then there is the pebble-like type, popularly known as sonic or nugget ice.
Introduced by the Sonic fastfood chain decades ago, this type of ice became very popular because it’s porous enough to melt at an optimal speed but doesn’t dilute the drink’s flavor too much. It also soaks up the liquid so you get a flavorful taste from the tiny ice pebbles.
It’s also a favorite among ice-eaters because it’s the only kind of ice that is chewable. That’s because it isn’t made by crushing large cubes. It’s made from flaked ice that’s been compacted into small pellets. This forms air pockets into the ice so that the ice is crunchy and soft, not sharp or hard.
Making crushed ice though can be tedious, especially if it’s done the old-fashioned way, i.e., pounding a ziploc bag of ice cubes with a hammer, so the good news is that there alternatives. Below, I've listed both a hand crank and electric option. Still, the mallet and bag method seems to be the fastest and most efficient. Don't think of it as dated. Think of it as authentic and vintage.
Don't forget, to crush ice, you'll need to make it first. I recommend getting a countertop ice maker.
Best Crushed Ice Makers
- Big Shot Hard Maple Muddler Mallet & Lewis Ice Bag Kit
- Glacio Ice Mallet and Lewis Bag
- Nightcore Electric Ice Crusher
- VKP Brands Ice Crusher
- Not Recommended: Silicone Mini Ice Cube Tray
1. Big Shot Hard Maple Muddler Mallet & Lewis Ice Bag Kit
You know you're a cocktail professional when you own your own ice mallet. The Big Shot is a unique ice mallet in that it doubles as a muddler, so you can crush ice in your canvas bag, then crush ingredients in your cocktail glass with one single tool. This tool was designed for making mojitos and other similar drinks!
The contoured handle and unique cylindrical shape means it's easy to wield and easy to store as well. Typical ice mallets are actually shaped like mallets, and can take up extra space in the kitchen for a tool that isn't usually a daily driver (it's OK if it is though!).
Some customers had issue with the finishing of the mallet. saying it was rough in some places. It seemed to be a very small issue, but photos show that the mallet surface isn't as smooth and finished as seen in the photos. I'm not sure if this is the result of using different wood pieces (every piece of wood is unique!), or an issue with the construction process. My advice would be to inspect the one you receive and exchange it if you're not happy, or as some people suggested, sand down the burrs yourself.
- comfort round grip on muddler tool
- hard maple is indestructible for crushing ice
- can be rolled on ice or hold each end with both hands for smaller pieces
- cotton canvas absorbs excess water from ice
- doubles as a muddler for crushing ingredients inside glasses
- smashing ice with round surface is less accurate than flat surface (see below)
2. Glacio Ice Mallet and Lewis Bag
If you're going to smash some ice with a mallet, do it right with a gigantic cartoon hammer. OK, so the mallet for the Glacio Ice Mallet isn't that cartoonish, but it is quite large and noticeable. This mallet isn't only about presentation though. It's made of solid beechwood, so has plenty of oomph for your ice crushing needs.
More importantly however, using this type of mallet to crush ice comes with two advantages over the round mallet style. One, you have a flat surface to crush ice, meaning you can get a decent smashing action on those rounded edges of ice cubes that the rounded mallet can have a difficult time with.
Second, you get a two types of smashing surfaces due to the mallet design. You can use the full force of the small surface, or a lighter crushing action of the wider side surface. You can use the proper mallet force to crush large cubes down into smaller chunks, then use side surface to further crush ice down into smaller pellets.
- very cool mallet style crusher
- mallet can be used with front and side face for alternate crushing styles
- double reinforced stitching on the bag
- smashing with hammer requires some strength
3. Nightcore Electric Ice Crusher
If you need to make crushed ice for more than a couple drinks, then you may want to consider getting an electric ice crusher. Surprisingly, electric ice crushers don't really seem to be a thing, and the Nightcore Electric Ice Crusher was the only one I could find that wasn't specifically made for making shaved ice. Shaved ice is not ideal for cocktails since the ice is too thin and melts too fast. It'll cool down your drink, for sure, but it'll water it down instantly and there will be no cool cling-cling sound when you swirl your drink.
Though the noise of crushing ice isn't ideal, if you have a couple friends over every weekend for cocktails in the back yard, manually crushing 10's of drinks with a wooden mallet can get tedious. Sure, it looks cool for the first weekend and the first couple of drinks, but after a while, I'm sure you'll just want some freakin' ice fast.
- automatic ice crushing
- crush large amounts of ice at a time
- store up to 12 cups of ice
- stainless steel
- suitable for home or commercial use
- requires electricity so may not be ideal for outside
- irritating ice grinding noise instead of cool homemade ice mallet pounding sound
- way more expensive than manual options
- ice jams lock up machine
- only one size of crushed ice
4. VKP Brands Ice Crusher
This ice maker is a great alternative if you can't, or don't want to, go through the process of putting ice in a bag and smashing it with a wooden stick. The mallet method can be noisy, and if you don't have an appropriate surface, could even damage your countertop in some situations. If you really go nuts, you might even make a huge mess.
The VP Brands Ice Crusher offers a little more of a controlled environment with its plastic casing and manual hand grinder. Its plastic and metal parts with boxy shape means it's easy to toss anywhere for storage. In fact, you can probably just keep it in the freezer next to the ice because it's really not that big of a device.
The downside is that you are really putting the plastic through a tough time by grinding what are basically rocks over and over again. Although most people are satisfied with the product, some people have complained about plastic parts breaking after just a few uses. Good thing it has a 5-year warranty, so keep your receipt and don't hesitate to switch it out for a new one if it breaks.!
- no electricity required
- easily measure ice for 1 or 2 drinks
- less noise than mallet or electric
- plastic parts can break
- turning hand requires coordination (try it after a few drinks!)
- not as fast as electric or mallet method
- can only crush a small amount of ice at a time
Not Recommended For Crushed Ice
Personally, I wasn't a fan of the mini ice cube tray. Though it looks fund and unique, it was actually quite difficult to use and achieve the results of cute little ice cubes for your drink. What I found was that when I poured too much water into the tray, it flowed over, and created one large chunk of ice anyway. When I didn't pour enough water, the cubes were too small to pop out in bulk, so I had to work each little one out of its little ice cube home. It was slow and annoying.
Filling the tray exactly perfectly and then actually getting it into the fridge without spilling didn't really work out for me, and it seemed to just be more work than it was worth