Some drinks require crushed-up fruits, vegetables, and herbs to add flavor. Some of these drinks include Mojito, Mint Julep, Whiskey Smash, and Caipirinha.
How do bartenders manage to get the juice extracts of these fruits to make cocktails without blending? That’s where muddling comes in.
Muddling, in the context of drinks, is a way to add fresh flavors to a drink. It is also known as “mashing” or “breaking down” ingredients. It is a technique used to release the natural juices and oils of fruits, herbs, and spices with a tool called a muddler. It is often used in cocktails, mocktails, and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
If you’re new to muddling, you may be asking, how hard should I muddle? What muddler should I use? What if I don’t have a muddler? Read on as we answer all these questions and much more.
How To Muddle Cocktail Ingredients
Muddling is a fairly simple process, but it’s important to follow a few guidelines to ensure the best results. Here are some tips for proper muddling:
1. Start With Fresh, Ripe Fruits, Herbs, and Spices
The key to successful muddling is using the freshest ingredients available. If using herbs and spices, use those that are whole and fresh rather than pre-ground.
You’ll be leaving your herbs or fruits in your cocktail when you finish muddling, so it’s only hygienic that you use fresh produce.
2. Prepare Your Ingredients
Wash your ingredients thoroughly and cut them into small pieces before muddling. Handle herbs with care because they have flavors in their veins, and you don’t want them tearing up.
After washing and cutting, place your fruits or herbs at the bottom of a container.
3. Use a Muddler or Other Tool
A muddler is a long, stick-like tool that is designed specifically for muddling. It looks like a pestle and is usually made of wood, plastic, or steel. If you don’t have a muddler, you can use a wooden spoon or even a potato masher.
Some muddlers have teeth that help mash fruits better; however, these muddlers aren’t great for herbs because they shred the leaves instead of releasing the flavor.
So if you’re mashing herbs, opt for muddlers with smooth ends.
4. Use a Sturdy Glass or Container
Make sure to use a glass or container that is sturdy enough to withstand the muddling process. A mixing glass is thick enough to handle the pressure of muddling. A mixing tin or cocktail shaker is also an optimal choice.
A whiskey glass or any other thin glass can shatter while muddling, so you’re advised to steer clear.
Although you might see bartenders muddling in whiskey glasses, they’re experienced, so they know how to be careful.
5. Start Muddling Gently
When muddling, start by pressing the ingredients lightly with your muddler. This will help to gently release the flavors and aromas. As you continue to muddle, press more firmly and move the muddler in a circular motion.
If you’re muddling lime, for example, you want to get most of the juice and even oils from the skin, so you’ll need to do serious muddling.
Don’t apply too much force, 3-5 good twists should be enough.
Gently push down and twist to allow all the freshness and flavor to come out and become part of the cocktail.
Muddling herbs is different from muddling fruit. If you’re muddling mint, for example. All of the minty flavors are in the veins, so you don’t have to muddle hard to extract the flavor.
So if you want to muddle herbs, do it with the sweet component you’ll add to the drink, like simple syrup. Add some simple syrup to the mint and muddle gently three times.
With most herbs, if you muddle it more than required, it starts getting bitter and brings out a flavor you don’t want. So be very gentle with herbs.
Muddling is an art in the bartending world, and you don’t need to have the best equipment to get the best cocktail. You just need to know how to do it well.
Remember that it’s not a pounding movement; gently press and twist your fruit or herbs to release its flavors, and you’ll have a great-tasting cocktail.