Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Why You Need a Lewis Bag to Make Better Cocktails at Home

viski lewis bag
Image courtesy of Viski

At some point in your career as a home bartender, you’re going to want to start making mint juleps. Or Moscow mules. Or scorpion bowls. Or frozen margaritas. And you won’t have a blender. What to do about the crushed ice? You can use that funky stuff that comes out of refrigerator doors and never tastes right. You can wander from store to store to find an ancient bag of crushed ice, now frozen solid. Or you can make your own. As you begin expanding your home bar toolkit, it’s time to consider the Lewis Bag.

What’s a Lewis Bag? Essentially, it’s a sturdy canvas bag with a flap, fold, or tie that you can fill with ice cubes and beat till you get tinier ice fragments. We know you’ve tried to do this before with block ice (or in a plastic sandwich bag), pounding it with a regular hammer, or maybe the heel of your boot. What happens? The ice crushes, sure, but it also perforates the bag and makes a soggy mess. Maybe you’ve even tried wrapping ice in a cotton kitchen towel. That works a little better if you can keep the towel closed. Still, it quickly gets soaked. Soon, everything’s wet.

mint julep crushed ice
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The Lewis Bag solves all these issues and more. The sturdy canvas won’t tear or leak. The flap keeps ice chips from shooting out like a miniature Emma Frost battling the Inhumans (or .. .the X-Men … we got so confused). It also wicks away all that unwanted moisture created by transferring energy from your arm to the ice (science!) so your ice isn’t “wet” when it goes into the drink. Seriously. You only want so much water dilution in the glory that is bourbon, sugar, and mint.

The whole thing couldn’t be simpler: Scoop a dozen or more ice cubes into the bag. Fold the flap over and pound the hell out of it five or six (or eight) times. A soft, wide mallet (think rubber mallet, meat tenderizer, or wooden

specialized mallet

) works better than a regular claw hammer. Use a sturdy surface (especially if you have downstairs neighbors), et voila! No mess.

lewis bag cocktail kingdom
Image courtesy of Cocktail Kingdom Image used with permission by copyright holder

There are a number of Lewis Bags available for purchase on Amazon, like

this option

 from Viski. Cocktail Kingdom, which specializes in specialized bar tools, has a great bag-and-mallet duo (pictured). Cocktail mecca Portland, Oregon, is home to Bull in China, which also has a swanky set. But honestly? You can hack this if you need to. If you can sew a double stitch, you can make your own bag pretty quickly with fabric from Joann’s or Ace Hardware. If you can’t, hop on eBay and grab coin bags for a couple bucks. (This is where this whole thing started in the 19th century. You’ve seen old-timey bank robbers in movies stealing bags of coins.) As to the mallet: A block of wood or a wooden roller works pretty well in a pinch (keep the boots on), but here you’re risking RSI if you’re make a ton of drinks.

Pro tip: No matter how pristine the ice source, eventually cloth picks up a funk from that frozen water. Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Portland bar owner extraordinaire and author of

The Bar Book

 (which you totally already have, right?), notes that you don’t want to wash your Lewis Bag in the washing machine with scented Tide Pods. Instead, flip it inside out, throw it on the top rack of the dishwasher (sans soap), and let it air dry.

Oh … and why is it called a “Lewis” bag? No clue. We reached out to all the

booze historians

 we know, and looked through all the books. We even consulted YouTube “bartenders.” No luck.  If anyone knows, please Tweeterfy or Facebook us. Until then, we’re going to assume its named after Vaudeville legend Ted Lewis.

Feature image courtesy of Viski.

Robert Haynes-Peterson
Robert Haynes-Peterson has been covering wine, spirits, cocktails, travel, and luxury lifestyle (you know, all the hard…
The best fried chicken recipe you will ever make
This is simply the best, and you can stop looking for this recipe now
Eating fried chicken

As you know, we love all things fried chicken. It’s the ultimate comfort food no matter the day of the week, no matter the weather. We just can’t get enough of that golden brown and delicious chicken. Keep reading, and you'll find the best fried chicken recipe ... hands down.
The history of fried chicken

Europeans were the first to fry up chicken during the Middle Ages. Fried chicken was considered an expensive delicacy until after World War II and was only served for special occasions. Scottish immigrants were the ones who introduced fried chicken to the U.S., but they didn’t use any seasonings until West Africans added spice blends into the recipe. Since then, it has been a staple in Southern cooking.

Read more
How to store coffee beans: 3 tips to keep your coffee fresh longer
Not today, Costco.
Coffee beans in hands.

For most of us, coffee beans are every bit as much a necessary kitchen staple as eggs or milk. After all, these are the magic beans that give us the energy to get out the door in the morning, to put on our big kid pants and go to work, to do the things we might not want to otherwise do. But when it comes to storing this precious ingredient, it's not quite as simple as shoving a bag in a cupboard, even if this is what many of us have done in the past.

Coffee beans are a fragile, temperamental ingredient, however life-giving and wonderful they may be. So it's important to treat them with the care and love they deserve and learn the right way to treat them after their stay in the grocery store. This is how to store coffee beans the right way.
Store them properly

Read more
Want to jumpstart your gut health? Try these 5 breakfast foods
5 delicious gut-healthy breakfast ideas your tastebuds will also love
a raseberry smoothie in a mason jar on a table

Whether breakfast is the most important meal of the day is a food fight. Generally, you want to eat nutritious, filling foods throughout the day to power through your to-dos and feel good doing so. Still, breakfast sets the table for all that. In particular, a filling, nutrient-dense, gut-healthy breakfast can do wonders.

"After fasting overnight, your gut is ready to efficiently absorb nutrients," said Beata Rydyger, BSc, RHN, a registered nutritionist and nutritional contributor to HPVHUB. "Eating a breakfast rich in fiber, probiotics, and prebiotics supports the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, improves digestion, and keeps the balance of microbes healthy." 

Read more