Muddling is a technique used by bartenders to bring out the juice and flavor in various ingredients such as fruit and herbs. In this post, I'll explain to you how to muddle as well as explain what a muddler is.
What is a Muddler?
A muddler is a tool used to extract flavor and juice from fruits, herbs and other drink ingredients. There are numerous types of muddlers as you can see below but the most commonly used type of muddler is a wooden one.
Pictured below are two different types one can use.
Caring for a Wooden Muddler
I am personally a fan of the wooden variety but using one requires some basic knowledge of how to take care of it.
- Do not place a wooden muddler (or anything wood for that matter) in the dishwasher as this will cause the wood to deteriorate and crack.
- After using the muddle, wash it right away to remove any juices and minimize staining. A little bit of staining is inevitable (for instance if you are muddling cherries or other fruit) but a proper cleaning should limit it.
- I always dry my muddler with a paper towel and then set it aside on a towel to air dry after use.
Choosing between Wood and Stainless Steel
One of the drawbacks to using wood is that it is not as easy to clean leading to a potential for mold or bacteria growth if you don't care for it properly. In instances where you prefer to go an easier route, a dishwasher safe stainless steel one may be a better option. If you are willing to properly care for it, however, the wooden variety is still the best in my opinion.
How to Muddle
To muddle an ingredient, place the ingredient (such as the orange slice pictured here) into a glass and, using a muddler, press down on the orange slice to squeeze the juice from the flesh and rind of the slice.
When muddling an orange slice, the goal is not to crush the slice comes apart but to simply press the oils and juices from the slice. This allows you to enhance the flavor of the drink you are making.
Muddling requires different levels of pressure
When muddling, you'll want to adjust the force with which you press down depending on the ingredients. For things such as mint, you want to press gently on the mint leaves to release the oil from them. You can tell when this is done because the mint leaves will darken and appear wet as the oil begins to seep out. Note: Muddling can also sometimes be done with a spoon if you have yet to have purchased the proper tool (for instance, we did this in our Mint Honey Simple Syrup recipe)
With ingredients such as rosemary (see our Maple Rosemary Bourbon Sour for a great Rosemary based drink), lemon and other tougher types, you'll need to press harder because they are firmer. However you do it, be sure to be mindful of the glass you are muddling in as pressing too hard on a delicate glass may cause it to break. Don't go overboard and adjust your technique depending on your tastes.