Friday, August 29, 2014

Muddling Techniques

When I first started bartending I overused the muddler. It turns out that some drinks are more attractive when the herbs or fruit you put in them are not pulverized. When you make a sangria, you want to see wheels of fruit in the glass; when you use strawberry slices and mint leaves, the drink is more attractive when bits look uniform rather than a clump of mush.

When To Muddle:

When the point of adding fruit, vegetables and herbs to a drink is to take advantage of the oils within their cell walls, you want to muddle them. If the produce that goes into a drink is meant to be consumed, it is best to leave the bits in bite sized chunks in the glass. If you intend to add juice of the same fruit anyway, it is probably not necessary to bother with muddling, but in drinks like Mojitos it is advisable to press the lime wedges to get as much juice out of them rather than adding extra lime juice and risk making the drink too sour.

How To Muddle:

1. Add your produce and some syrup.
Simply mashing your produce into the glass by itself often doesn’t work unless it is a soft fruit like a peach or orange slices. It is always best to add a little liquid to absorb as much of the juice or oils you release on muddling. I recommend adding the produce and then covering the melange with simple syrup or agave nectar (if you want the drink to be sweet), citrus juice or lime syrup (if you want a tart drink), and even olive juice (if you are making a briny drink like a variation of a Dirty Martini).

2. Press hard and twist.
The proper muddling technique is a downward push on the muddler handle and a twisting motion that grinds the bits with the muddler’s teeth. Press the contents of the glass in the center and rotate outward using the sides of the glass as well as the base as a pestle.

3. Build your drink on top.
Add all the other ingredients including ice, alcohol and mix-ins. You can stir or shake the drink as directed. Make sure all ingredients are evenly mixed or you risk having a layered drink that is at times too bland or too strong.

4. Pour or strain.
Some drinks—especially Martini variations—require that the muddled ingredients, including the ice, be strained off so that the cocktail glass is filled only with cold alcohol and the juices produced by the muddling. A muddled berry drink when strained into a cocktail glass may have a pink hue, but it will still be clear without peels or seeds. That is the look you are going for with “up” drinks. With other drinks like a Mint Julep, it is perfectly fine to use the ice and muddled mixture in the final product. This will make for a cocktail that is more flavorful and interesting to look at in a Collins or rocks glass.

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