Muddling – The Why, What, and How?
A number of classic and delightful cocktails, such as the mojito, the Old-Fashioned, the Caipirinha, and the mint julep, require a step known as ‘muddling’ in order to extract the maximum flavor from their ingredients.
Muddling is, essentially, crushing. It is accomplished with the use of a tool called a muddler, which is a long, thin tool made of wood or metal with a blunt crushing surface on one end. The ingredient to be muddled is placed in the bottom of a dry glass, and is then ground between the muddler and the bottom of the glass. The muddler serves as a pestle to the glass’s morter, partially pulverizing the ingredient.
There are two types of ingredients that are commonly muddled: fresh fruits, and fresh herbs. In both cases, the process of muddling releases aromatic juices and oils from the ingredient into the glass, freeing them to be mixed into the drink.
There are numerous advantages of muddling over juicing. For one, there are many ingredients which are difficult or impossible to juice in a bar setting, such as fresh herbs or certain fruits, like apples and pears. But even for easily-juiced fruits like citrus, muddling has its advantages. If a lime is juiced and the juice is added to a drink, only the filtered juice from the fruit’s flesh will make it into the final drink. With muddling, however, the drink will also contain delicious volatile oils released from the fruit’s peel, as well as small bits of the fruit’s flesh. These oils and fruit bits add dimension, depth and a lovely aroma to the finished cocktail.
It is important to muddle your solid ingredients before adding your liquid ingredients to the glass, in order to ensure that the fruit or herb is well-crushed. To use the muddler effectively, it must be held with the handle end cupped in the palm of the hand, and then ground into the bottom of the glass in a rotating motion. Finally, the grinding process may be helped along with the addition of dry sugar, the granules of which assist in pulverizing your solid ingredient.
Typically, muddled cocktails are served in glasses with ice, which prevents the loose fruits or herbs from floating to the top of the drink. However, muddled cocktails may also be prepared in a cocktail strainer and then strained into a martini glass.