Muddling is an often-overlooked skill for cocktail-makers, especially when your go-to drink at the end of the day is an Old Fashioned or a Gibson Martini (you know we love those!). But with summer in full-on-hot mode, those cool refreshing drinks that incorporate fruits and herbs are being guzzled left and right. They're bright, light, bubbly, and go down easy.
During strawberry season I tend to add strawberries to anything I can think of. Strawberry daiquiris, anyone? You do NOT need a blender - just muddle some fresh strawberries in the bottom of the shaker before adding simple sugar, lime, and rum. Then give it a really good shake.
Ok, so let's talk about muddlers. I've got a big bone to pick with most of the muddlers out there. And the biggest one is...
Muddlers with crushing teeth: NO
You've seen them. They're muddlers with a waffle-maker, sawtooth, jagged rough muddle end. If you're new to drink-making, it's not immediately obvious that these muddlers are a poor choice. When you first think about it, muddling is for breaking things down, right? So why wouldn't you want something kind of like a meat mallet to do the job? Even the listing description for one of these sawtooth-style muddlers claims, "The teeth make crushing way easier and really dig into the ingredients"
Well, yes, that's true. But that's not the outcome we're after. Why? Let's talk about Mint.
How to Muddle Mint for Cocktails
Please don't destroy your mint. Muddling should be a gentle, firm pressing to release the mint's oils. When you shred the delicate leaves to pieces, you'll release bitter chlorophyll that will turn your mojito musky and grassy-flavored. NO THANK YOU!
Use a muddler with a flat, smooth base, like this baby, and go easy on those fresh mint leaves.
Needless to say, when we decided to add a muddler to our line of barware, we decided to make it right.
This solid wood Maple Muddler ($20) is made from organic Canadian Maple, and finished with a natural mineral oil. Because that's another way that muddlers get it wrong: never, ever buy a muddler that's been varnished. If you do, it will eventually start to flake off, and the finish ends up in your drink.
Ok, now that we've thoroughly unmasked the muddler, your mouth may be watering for a spirited, minty-fresh pick-me-up. There's one drink where mint really shines: the Mint Julep! For a great history of this classic cocktail, and a few suggestions on some really incredible bourbon options to pair with that freshly harvested mint, read on at The Five Best Bourbons for Making Mint Julep Cocktails.