Games Bartenders Play: Icing

ICING verb, ic·ing, \ˈī-siŋ\

The uproarious act of surprising someone (usually a fellow bartender) with a bottle of Smirnoff Ice, demanding that the victim immediately take a knee and pound it

Currently battling for the title of Las Vegas Ice King are Julian Luna and SeongHa Lee. “It’s in the craft, it’s in the surprise,” says Luna, who has historically racked up victims by concealing bottles in a colleague’s bar tool kit, in a coworker’s locker, in a tequila ambassador’s birthday piñata and even in his own boss’ desk drawer. Icing is less “bartender’s handshake” and more “bartender’s affectionately administered wedgie.”

“And strangely,” Luna notes, “Australians don’t seem to mind being Iced one bit.”

The ritual appears to have its origins in the college fraternity scene as an obscure meme that went viral in 2010, spawning a YouTube channel, Twitter account, Facebook page, website and Tumblr blog, as well as coverage in The New York Times and CNN Money—much of which has been subsequently scrubbed from the internet by a well-funded killjoy. Only the website seems to have skirted judgment by opening up the prank’s starring role to other beverages.

For his part, Lee famously Iced his entire crew at a highway rest stop en route to February’s Last Slinger Standing competition during Arizona Cocktail Week in Phoenix. Another year, a vending machine at the event allowed you to Ice yourself! (Or maybe that was just an actual Smirnoff Ice vending machine? We may never know.)

Much of the fun of Icing, however, is in the retaliation. Prime targets, Luna and Lee have been subject to Icing by bread basket and beer bucket at Herbs & Rye. Luna also recounts how he and other volunteers were systematically Iced en masse during San Antonio Cocktail Week in January with bottles hidden in wash buckets beneath dirty bar tools. “They were all warm and covered in soap, and we were already hungover from the night before,” Luna recalls, shuddering. “Plus, they were 22-ouncers! It hurt. I’m not gonna lie, it hurt.”