How To Muddle The Most Common Cocktail Ingredients
Muddling is a technique in bartending whereby an ingredient, mostly herbs, and fruits are pressed down to extract their juices and oils so the finished product will be better-tasting. As easy as it sounds, it is actually pretty easy to mess up, especially if one doesn’t know the correct way of doing it. You don’t want to muddle the ingredients to the point that they become dark and fully demolished. Do you know what this does? It makes your cocktail taste like grass, bitter and just plain unpleasant that no one wants.
To make sure that this doesn’t happen and to prevent customers or guests from getting disappointed, we have laid out the proper ways on how to muddle ingredients that are most likely to be muddled. When you muddle, you would need a sturdy glass so it won’t break every time you apply force. Mostly, a shaker glass is used because it is transparent so you can see the process and you can directly add the other ingredients in and shake them immediately. For drinks that don’t require being shaken, you can muddle the ingredients directly in the glass that the drink is served in. If you follow them correctly, then you’ll make perfectly muddled cocktails every time.
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Muddled mint leaves are a staple in cocktails because they add a depth of flavor to the drink with its cool and minty sensation. It is also one of the delicate ingredients to muddle because one mishap can make it taste astringent and can ultimately ruin the cocktail, so a wooden muddler with a smooth or flat end works best with it. In muddling mint leaves, place the mint leaves in the glass and then gently press the muddler against the leaves and twist it. Lift up the muddler and do it again, this should go for about 5 - 6 turns. Once you see the leaves begin to look a bit wilted but not crushed and you can smell its scent, then it is ready.
Some cocktails would require the mint leaves or the fruit to be muddled with the rest of the cocktail’s ingredients so the drink will be infused with all the flavors. To do this, place all the ingredients, the mint leaves, the fruit, the sweetener and the liquor, depending on what type of drink, in the glass and muddle them all together. You have to control the pressure you're exerting in a way that the juice of the fruit is extracted well but not crushing the mint leaves. If you have time, you can also muddle the ingredients one by one by starting with the hard ingredients, then adding on the delicate ones.
Lime is less tricky to muddle than mint leaves, but you have to put some muscle on it. Cut the lime into wedges or quarters then place them into the glass. Press the muddler on them to extract the juices. You can either do the twisting motion or not. What’s important is that the juices are released at the same time, the essential oils from the peel.
A mojito calls for mint leaves, lime wedges and sugar to be muddled together. First, place the mint leaves directly into a highball glass, followed by the sugar and the lime wedges. With this order, the muddler will be pressed against the lime instead of the mint leaves so they won’t get shredded. The sugar and the lime juice will actually absorb the mint flavors so when the rum and club soda are added, all the components’ flavors will be mixed quickly.
Place the orange slices flat in a glass. You can use a muddler with teeth to fully press the pulps and extract as much juice as possible. But, when you get to the peel, apply a light pressure so as to not release a bitter taste. You only need the essential oils from the peel.
Use cranberries that are ripe so it would not be hard to muddle them. You may have to use a handful of cranberries since they don’t contain pulps like citrus fruits so you may not extract as much juice, especially that they have air pockets inside. You can use a muddler with or without the teeth for this. Press the cranberries just enough to split them in half and to help them out, they can be muddled together with a liquid-like lime juice or simple syrup.
Aside from citrus fruits, berries are also famous for being muddled in cocktails. They are the easiest ones to muddle because they are generally soft. You can simply use a flat end muddler and press and twist on the fruit 3-5 times only, this is ideal for raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Strawberries, on the other hand, are bigger and not as soft so they may need to be diced and a muddler with teeth is more suitable for it. The press and twist motion will still be applied but with more pressure.
Cucumbers are about 90% water but they’re not exactly soft. To make the muddling easier, dice up the cucumbers, about ¼ inch thick and place them in a glass. Then, press them until the liquid comes out. After a few presses, place the mint leaves in the glass and this is where you start the gentle press and twist motion. The reason why the two are muddled separately is because they have contradicting structural integrity. The mint leaves would be crushed the moment the cucumbers have been muddled properly.
Granulated sugar is not so difficult to muddle since they are already fine but sugar cubes may need more work. Combine the sugar cube with the other ingredients, perhaps mint leaves or bitters for an Old fashioned and press until the sugar cube is crumbled, this helps in making it dissolve faster when the liquor or soda is added. Keep in mind that when mint is being muddled together, do it very gently. You can also rotate the ingredients as you go with the muddler to make sure that they are incorporated very well.
If you don’t have a muddler on hand, you can always use a mortar and pestle but you have to use it like a muddler, don’t pound, instead, press and twist. A wooden spoon can also work, all you have to do is hold it upside down, with your palm on the bowl part of the spoon and the end pressing against the ingredient. If it doesn’t have a flat end, you can also use its back when handling chunks like strawberries and cucumber. The handles of a rolling pin essentially work the same way.
Mojitos are supposed to have a nice tart taste with a little punch and the signature minty feel. With this, it is understandable that mint leaves are to be muddled to achieve the optimal minty taste. Although, some people like to spend less time in making mojitos so instead of muddling the mint leaves, they just simply slap the leaves against the palm to release the aroma. Then, instead of sugar, simple syrup is used. This method will still produce a good mojito but the mint flavor will not be as pronounced. It depends on the bartender on what his style is going to be and it also depends on how the customer or guest likes his or her mojito.
Speaking of saving time, is it okay to muddle your mint leaves ahead of time? This may seem helpful especially during busy times at the bar, however, muddling fresh ingredients ahead of will do no good to your cocktail. Mint leaves will just bruise and eventually turn brown and dry out so what’s the point in adding it into the drink, really? It’s best to spend a couple of seconds muddling mint leaves just before adding the rest of the ingredients to make a fresh-tasting drink.
Some of the most iconic cocktails, that are probably your favorites, are required to be muddled. Bartenders say that exerting extra effort in muddling to make great cocktails is worth it. Below are the most well-known cocktails and their ingredients that are muddled.
The cocktails above are just a few of the many cocktails that are muddled but they are the originals of all muddled drinks. They branch out to countless variations that call for different kinds of ingredients to be muddled. Not to mention other cocktails that are originally not muddled but have muddled variations.
The thing to remember when muddling is to not overdo it. You’re not grinding ingredients, you are just collecting what you need from them which are the juice and the essential oils. Sure, it requires time and effort but it boosts the drink’s character by making it taste real and fresh. Some ingredients don’t have the same structural integrity so the amount of pressure applied to each may vary. When you’re handling delicate herbs, then be delicate with the muddling process and so on. Especially now that summer is here, you need to work on your muddling skills so you can nail the cocktails you serve every single time. You can select your muddler of choice right here and some mint julep cups should you decide to make mint juleps to practice your skills.
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