Jan 10, 2020
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Apparently, we've been muddling all wrong! The video below covers some of the basic techniques to get the best muddle possible for your cocktails and mixed drinks. Moreover, some of the most common muddling mistakes are discussed. For instance, choice of muddler absolutely matters (which is why you're reading this page to begin with). Assuming you've picked a good muddler, the video talks about muddling using a proper glass, being careful to avoid things like the glass chipping or breaking. Last but not least, proper muddling technique is demonstrated - "press down, and twist a quarter turn."
Let's get this out of the way - a muddler is an essential tool in any barware kit or for any bartender, whether making drinks at home for fun or behind a commercial bar.
At Best Best List we're minimalists at heart, and prefer to have the best tool for the job without accumulating too much junk. A muddler is decidedly NOT in the junk category. There are tons of classic cocktails that you won't be able to make without a good muddler. Think of drinks like the Old Fashioned (a favorite of ours), Mojito, Mint Julep, and Brazil's national cocktail, the Caipirinha.
In case you don't already know, we'll borrow Wikipedia's concise definition of what a muddler is:
...a bartender's tool, used like a pestle to mash - or muddle - fruits, herbs and spices in the bottom of a glass to release their flavor.
Shape & length: The vast majority of muddlers will have a cylindrical shape, and be anywhere from 6 to 12 inches long. Most muddlers taper in and out at various points to improve ergonomics. Some even have rubberized portions to provide a better grip. The shape can definitely affect comfort, but the length is generally more important. Most pro bartenders recommend a muddler that's 11 or 12 inches, which gives you more clearance in case you're muddling in a taller-than-average cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Having said that, muddlers in the 8-10 inch range are very common and most people shouldn't have any issues with that.
Material: Another big differentiation between all the different muddlers available is what material they're made of. The two main materials you'll encounter are wood and stainless steel:
Wooden muddlers have more of a classic look, and can look very elegant as part of a barware setup. They also feel good to hold. If a wooden muddler is what you prefer, we recommend getting one that's unvarnished. The coating on a varnished muddler could chip off end end up in you or your guest's drink, which is something to avoid. Wooden muddlers also require a little more care - you should rinse them off and towel & air dry them immediately. An organic material like wood is porous, and by soaking a muddler or leaving it dirty it could accumulate unwanted bacteria.
Stainless steel muddlers may not look quite as classic and elegant, but their advantage is less maintenance. They're likely dishwasher-safe, and there's virtually no risk that they could chip or break. They also don't stain; if you've muddled anything with Angostura Bitters using a wooden muddler, you know what we mean!
Flat bottom vs. teeth: The business end of the muddler is what will actually come into contact with your liquid, fruit, herbs, and spices. A more traditional muddler has a flat bottom, so it will evenly mash anything under it. Many muddlers these days have teeth, which can more effectively mash harder things like fruit, and extract more juice. Beware, however, that it's easy to over-muddle. If you're heavy-handed, using a muddler with teeth may lead to extracting too much from your mixture resulting in a bitter taste.
First of all, muddle in an appropriate container, like a pint glass or a tin container. Any other container may not be sturdy enough, or worse it could easily break.
When it comes time to use your muddler, muddle like you mean it! Meaning, grab a firm grip on your muddler, and put some elbow into it. Press down and twist several times. Take care not to over-muddle, as we discussed above, since you don't want to extract bitterness from your herbs.
It takes some practice, but you'll quickly get the hang of it!