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Don’t muddle mint for your next mojito — do this instead

There are better alternatives to muddling

Mojito on a bar ready to serve
Tatyana Vega / Unsplash

If you’re a cocktail fan (even if you simply order them at a bar instead of making them at home), you’re probably well aware of the act of muddling. It’s a popular way to extract flavor, and it’s a technique that is used in drinks like the classic Old Fashioned, the Mojito, and many more. But what exactly is muddling? Also, perhaps you’re just better off doing something else instead to get that much-needed flavor.

What is a muddler?

Muddler
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There are a lot of tools that are extremely important to bartenders. This includes a shaker, strainer, bar spoon, jigger, and a muddler. Today, we’re most interested in the latter.

If you’ve made cocktails at home or your frequent cocktail bars, you’ve seen a muddler. This long-handled tool is usually wooden or is either metal, plastic, or some other material and has a rubber end for muddling. It’s used for (you guessed it) muddling and is a must-have for any bartender. You can’t make some of the most iconic cocktails without it.

What is muddling?

Mojito
Tata Zaremba/Unsplash

Now that you know what a muddler is, it’s time to learn what it’s used for. Muddling is a technique used by bartenders and mixologists to smash various herbs, granulated sugar, and other ingredients to extract flavors. In an Old Fashioned, bitters, water, and sugar are muddled before ice and rye or bourbon whiskey are added.

When preparing a Caipirinha (the official drink of Brazil), lime wedges and granulated sugar are muddled together before ice and Cachaça are added to complete the drink. We can’t forget possibly the most well-known muddled cocktail: the iconic, flavorful Mojito.

To make this popular cocktail, sugar, lime juice, and mint are muddled before rum, soda water, and ice are added to complete this fresh, refreshing, summery drink. But, when it comes to the mojito specifically, some bartenders believe that there’s a better way to extract the mint flavor without creating a mushy paste of lime, sugar, and leaves.

Alternatives to muddling

Mojito garnished with mint and limes
Alejandro Photography / Getty Images

Muddling is very common in the cocktail world, but using this technique might mean you’re missing out on some flavor. Proper muddling is a game of tempered patience. If you’re just haphazardly mashing sugar and mint leaves, you’re going to just create a granulated, minty mess.

While aggressively smashing herbs and leaves will extract more beneficial flavors, it also brings forth vegetal, bitter, organic, and downright bad flavors as well. Luckily, there are alternatives. You can use a rolling pin to extract flavor without absolutely pulverizing the herbs. You can also use a spoon to gently crush the leaves and stop before they’re destroyed.

There’s also the alternative of infusing your spirit with the ingredient you plan to muddle. In this case mint. It won’t be as fresh, but you’ll get a heavy dose of mint in your Mojito. Another option is adding everything to a cocktail shaker and shaking it vigorously. This will combine all the ingredients while extracting the flavors without adding grassy, bitter, earthy flavors.

The best alternative

Making cocktails.
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While all the other non-muddling techniques work well if you don’t want to muddle your mint or other herbs, they don’t extract as much flavor as muddling. There is one more alternative though and it’s to add all of your cocktail ingredients to a blender and blend them for a few seconds to combine everything and then strain it.

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Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
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