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Have you ever noticed when you are at a bar and you order your favorite glass of mojito and there are little mint leaves floating around your drink? And then after you take a sip, you just get disappointed immediately because you are welcomed with nothing but bitterness. If those mint leaves were muddled right, it would have been an awesome and refreshing drink. If you don’t want to make the same mistake, then you better learn the right way on how to muddle ingredients such as the mint leaves. But first, let us acquaint ourselves with the useful tool that is the muddler.
What is a Muddler?
One of the most important bar tools that any bar should have is the cocktail muddler. It looks and works somehow like a pestle and is used for pressing ingredients down such as fruits and herbs so they can release all of their juices and oils to be incorporated in the cocktails.
Muddling is responsible for the refreshing and cool taste that cocktails like mint julep, caipirinha and mojito provide and also for the fruity taste of fruit drinks. It may seem like an easy enough job but it actually is quite tricky. One mishap might just ruin the entire drink and will make you start all over again. There are several things to look out for: press too hard and the herbs will turn bitter and when you press too soft, then it will taste almost like nothing. You want to be somewhere in between.
Choosing a Cocktail Muddler: Types of Muddlers
There are three types of muddlers have distinct features that make them unique and functional in their own ways. It is quite clear that all of them are effective in getting the job done, after all it’s just one task which is to muddle so having to choose is a matter of preference.
For starters, choose a muddler that fits in your hand. If buying online, read the reviews more than the product description. For example, the product is described to be 1.5” in diameter. Find something of the same diameter and hold it just as you would hold a muddler. It will give you a feel of how the given dimension fits in your hand.
A shorter muddler means more strength into the ingredients in the glass. If you are a strong person, choose one you can manipulate enough.
1. Wooden Muddlers
Wooden muddles are considered the original muddlers and by far the most prominent type. They are preferred by most bartenders since they are durable and versatile. Aside from muddling fruits and herbs, they can also be used for cracking ice cubes so they could become smaller bits. Be careful to choose a wooden muddler. Steer clear from lacquered ones as the lacquer tends to react with the alcohol, resulting in an off-taste.
2. Stainless Steel Muddlers
These days, stainless steel muddlers are rising to fame as well. They have the edge over the wooden muddler in terms of sanitation because there is very little to no chance of mold and bacterial growth after many uses. They also don’t retain the stains from the juices of fruits, especially the dark ones like berries.
The one with the rubber or nylon end is recommended as it is easier to control the force applied and nylon is also non-biodegradable so it lasts longer. The teeth are effective in muddling fruits quickly like berries and citrus to extract the juices to the full extent, but they are not suitable for muddling herbs because of the potential bitterness problem. They are also dishwasher safe so they are very easy and quick to clean and store.
3. Plastic Muddlers
The development of plastic muddlers is neck and neck with the stainless steel one. It also resembles the structure of the stainless steel muddler, with the teeth on the bottom, but some variations would only have a smooth and flat surface on the bottom. They are great for muddling both fruits and herbs alike but not as efficient compared to its wooden and steel counterparts, however, they’re still effective.
They can be made from polypropylene or polycarbonate plastic which gives them a firmness but not as heavy as the steel ones. That is why some people would prefer the plastic muddler because they don’t get tired as much from muddling because of the absence of the extra weight that steel ones have and they are much easier to clean than the wooden ones.
How Do You Use a Muddler?
For the inexperienced, muddling may be thought of as crushing or mashing your fresh ingredients into very fine bits. This isn’t actually the case because we’re not pulverizing something. In the case of fruits, you’re only going to muddle the juices from the pulp or skin and for herbs and citrus peels, you’ll only want to extract the essential oils. Usually, these ingredients are combined with sweeteners like sugar or syrup so they can be muddled together.
There are three things to keep in mind when muddling: position, motion and force, all will be explained as we go along. If you follow all these steps correctly, you will succeed every time you muddle and end up with an awesome tasting drink.
Take a sturdy glass such as a cocktail shaker, a mixing glass or directly the serving glass and make sure that the muddler is tall enough for the glass so you’ll still have a gripping space when the end reaches the bottom of the glass.
Place the ingredients needed (either mint or berries or citrus peels). Don’t use a plastic container as this will easily crack even under the lightest pressure. If you’re working with any citrus fruit, roll it up against the table first before slicing it as this yields more juice.
Add in the sweetener, for instance, sugar (depending on what a recipe calls) into the glass.
Take the muddler and position your palm on top of the holding end then grip it with your whole hand, this is the position factor. Your dominant hand should hold the muddler while the other hand should hold the glass in place on the table.
Place the muddler into the glass with the end (either the flat base or the teeth), touching the contents of the glass. Then, gently press down and twist it against the bottom of the glass, the motion factor. Do this four to five times while placing the muddler in different parts of the leaves or fruits to ensure that every part is muddled.
Be light on your hands, don’t apply too much pressure as this will risk tearing of the ingredients especially the leaves, this is the force factor.
Once you can smell the aromas released from the ingredients, this is when you’ll stop, and then add ice ( adding ice after muddling prevents dilution) and continue making the rest of the cocktail.
Start Practicing Now!
In order to become an expert at muddling, you’ll need to practice first. How about a classic mojito recipe to get you started. You’ll get down with the basics like muddling mint and lime. And if you want to proceed by muddling fruit, try this amazing blackberry basil cocktail. Both of these recipes taste best when the muddling is done properly.
Bartenders only want to serve the best cocktails to their customers and among the important methods to create a flavorful drink is by muddling. It seems like an easy job once you have mastered it. It is essential that you learn the right way to muddle to prevent dissatisfaction from customers and wastage of ingredients. Furthermore, choosing a muddler isn’t much of a hard choice to make as they essentially work the same way. The differing factor is how you use the tool the proper way.