There are 2 kinds of muddlers: A bartending tool and a type of trout fishing fly lure. We’re not going to talk about the lure but we are going to talk about the bartending tool. A muddler used in bartending is simply a tool used for mashing ingredients in cocktails like the mojito. Continue reading to learn more about how specifically a muddler is used.
There are 2 basic muddler designs; the baseball bat shaped muddler and the flat bottomed muddler. Either are perfectly fine and choice comes down to personal preference. The baseball bat design has rounded edges on the muddling end vs the more squared edges of the flat bottomed muddler design. The baseball bat design may be a more preferable design to start with since it is less likely to encourage over muddling which is common with those that are new to the technique. Over muddling can produce bitterness or an improper flavor balance.
There are also a few basic materials used in the manufacturing of muddlers; wood, plastic, stone and metal. Wood muddlers are more traditional but do require a little bit of care. Metal muddlers may have a plastic or hard rubber muddling end. A plastic muddler is probably the better choice for a beginner since it requires less care and would be less likely to break the cocktail or mixing glass.
Muddling seems like it is a fairly simple process but there is a bit of art to it. Beginners may tend to over muddle fruits or herbs. You’re really just trying to extract the oils from herbs or the juices from fruits. Over muddling will cause the flavor balance to be wrong. Over muddling fruits can bring out the bitterness of the pulp or make the flavor of the ingredients being muddled too overpowering. Also, aesthetics plays a big part in cocktails. Over muddling can make the ingredients less visually appealing.
Metal or plastic muddlers won’t require any real care. Simply rinse and dry them with a towel, then store them.
Wooden muddlers require a little more attention but aren’t difficult to care for. Since wood is porous it can absorb the liquids and essences of the muddling ingredients. You’ll want to make sure that you immediately clean and dry your muddler after each use. Simply rinse it and dry it with a towel. Make sure you don’t leave it in any liquid for an extended period of time. Leaving a wooden muddler in water in your sink for instance can cause it to expand and crack. It should go without saying that a wooden muddler isn’t dishwasher safe.
While a muddler is a purpose built tool it’s not like you can’t just grab any old thing and crush your ingredients. If you do need to go with a substitute muddler try to find something that has a fairly flat and broad end. Some kitchen utensil handles may do the trick. You don’t want to use something that is thin since it won’t really crush the ingredients as much as it will cut them and bring out the bitterness of some herbs or fruit skins. After you get through this cocktail challenge, go ahead and get a muddler. It’s not like they’re expensive and they’re worth having on hand since there aren’t terribly many good muddler alternatives laying around your home.
The Spruce / Cocktails that require a muddler
Serious Eats / Cocktail 101: How to Muddle Mint and Other Herbs
A muddler is an essential cocktail to have on hand. It’s basically just a pestle for a bartender. It’s purpose is to bring out the flavors of fruits and herbs used as ingredients for various cocktail drinks. Using a muddler isn’t terribly difficult but many beginners tend to overdo their muddling of the ingredients. Don’t overwork your cocktail ingredients with your muddler. For instance, leafy herbs just need a bit of light crushing to allow the essential oils to release from the leaves. When muddling fruits you should avoid over muddling and crushing the fruit skin or leaves unnecessarily. These bits can cause bitterness to leach into the drink. Good luck with your cocktail mixing and happy muddling.
Image Credit: Didriks via Flickr
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