The Crusher

As any cocktail geek will tell you, ice is too often an afterthought in the making of a chilled drink. The fact is that when it comes to the ice that goes into many drinks—especially the venerable Mint Julep--size matters. Big cubes popped from a freezer ice tray are slow to chill the glass and the liquid in it; conversely, the fluffy granules that usually come out of a blender or a fridge's ice maker tend to melt too quickly. The key to a perfect julep, or to almost any cocktail calling for lots of ice, is cracked or lightly crushed ice, which chills a drink quickly and absorbs its flavors. The best way I've found to achieve perfect, pebble-size shards is with a manual ice crusher I stole from my father's bar. It's an Ice-O-Mat manufactured in 1960, with a wall mount and an assembly of steel blades that crunch ice—coarse or fine, depending on which direction you crank the handle—into a removable compartment underneath. It's indispensable. (It and similar vintage models come up for sale on eBay.)