The Ice Shell is one of those lost arts, or perhaps, lost little extras, that went away when cheap labor did. I know of only one place I can get a cocktail in an ice shell and that is the venerable Mai-Kai in Fort Lauderdale, FL. If you are lucky, you’ll get your Shark Bite served in one.
I was sure to ask General Manager Kern Mattei just how one made this magical wonder on one of my first trips. Here I am 7 years later actually doing it.
Why did it take me so long? I needed the right glass. And I have not searched for it continually. Today Ms Swanky thought to look while we were at a Goodwill and we lucked upon a few perfect glasses.
The right glass must be round and have a short edge. That is, it can’t come up too far or you can’t make it work.
To make mine I used my go-to fine ice crusher, the Oster Sno-Flake. It makes good fine crushed ice and is detachable from its base so you can put it over an ice bicket and crush up tons at a time. Available for cheap on Ebay and your local antique dealer.
So now you have the proper glass and the fine crushed ice, using the back of a spoon, press the ice into a shallow shell around the inside of the glass. Keep building it up on the edges until the inside of the entire glass is covered. Put the glass in the freezer.
After it has time to freeze solid, take it out and go to the final step. I am not sure how the professionals do it. Maybe you can just let it cool on the counter for a while, but I heated the glass with my hands. You need a little warming to get the ice to seperate from the glass. A little push will tell you when it is ready. Too much and you will destroy your work.
Once the ice shell is loose from the glass, you push down one edge and back fill more ice with the spoon to get the glass covered again. Then put it back in the freezer until you are ready to serve.
After a few, it gets easier and yoru final product better. Back in th eearly days, there were many drinks served with ice sculpture and they had guys back there making the special sculptures all night long. I can count over a dozen with ice sculptures on the vintage Mai-Kai menu.
UPDATE: A small bit of advice to make it all easier. Crush your ice, but let it sit a little while. You want it to be melting a little. “Wet” ice, like wet snow will pack much better and when you freeze it, it will make a stronger block.
I suggest the “Shark Tooth” from Beachbum Berry’s “Grog Log”. It will also likely be in his new book coming out soon, Re-Mixed. Or join me at this little event I started called Hukilau in June and we’ll try one at the Mai-Kai.
If you make one of these, be sure to thank the Mai-Kai for keeping the knowledge alive.
Ms. Swanky got me this sealed vintage bottle for Christmas this year and I was eager to try it. Rums of today just don’t compare to those of 40 years ago I am told. The rums they used to mix with then, we would consider only for sipping on the rocks today.
And anyone who has spent much time mixing drinks knows that Bacardi 151 is essentially best served on fire. Lemon Hart 151 is the only thing out there with a good flavor for mixing. Want to test that? Try a “151 Swizzle” using each, side by side. Look at the ratings on the Grogalizer and you see clearly who used what as the grades for the drink are all 1′s and 10′s!
So, with that backdrop, I wanted to see where this 151 stood.
I started with the Lemon Hart as a baseline. It has an immediate and strong caramel flavor. Oo, and there’s the burn! Yep, that’s 151 proof! A hazardous material you can’t send via plane. But, compared with the Bacardi, it’s mighty tasty.
Now to the 40 year old bottle of Don Q. A much milder flavor. Yes, a flavor! And not moist socks. It’s light and nice. Sort of like a really smooth and yummy gold rum. Better than Appleton Gold. And then I swallowed. Ouch.
It’s in between the strong flavor of the Lemon Hart and the blech flavor of Bacardi. That is, it won’t give the powerful punch of Lemon Hart. But it is good. It’s nice. I may have to get out the aluminum cups and cinnamon sticks and mix us some “151 Swizzles” to get an even better idea.
Lita, the Oriental Mystery Girl is Miss June 1963.
Mai Kai, Fort Lauderdale, FL
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My definition of “collecting” has changed over the years. I have been humbled by the vast and cumpulsive collections by people I have met or seen online. I do have a few “collections,” but, nothing that is going to blow anyone away. I suppose I collect vintage lamps, radios, and stuff. But mostly I don’t “collect” those things, I just buy them when I find stuff I like at a price I like. I only really collect Mai Kai and Aku Aku Las Vegas stuff, and a little Don the Beachcomber. Otherwise, it’s just decor. It is not a “collection” and my home is not a museum.
Experiment 33 has posted his collection of vintage barware and started a Flickr group for more to add theirs. I do love the remnants of a lost culture of good drink making. And I have a few of the things pictured myself.
I have had many ice crushers. Hand crank types and motorized ones. These days I enjoy the luxury of crushed ice by way of the fridge door. But, the best other ice crusher is the Oster Snoflake. Not only does it do the job well, but, you can put the crusher over an ice bucket instead of the tray it comes with and make mountains of crushed ice for your party. It does throw out eye piercing shards of ice, like many, but, it’s not too scary. Get one cheap on Ebay.
I had not been there in a while, but wandered over looking for a recipe online. I noticed they have made nice additions to the look of the site, but a big new upgrade is the ability to scale a drink recipe. If you are making Mai Tais for 20, this is very handy. It’s smart because it not only tells you how many ounces of everything you need, but how many bottles. A great tool! Here is their Mai Tai page, which has Grenadine in it for some reason…