How to Muddle Cocktails

Learn How to Use One of the Most Useful Bar Tools

Muddling a lime wedges for making a Mojito cocktail.
Muddling is an essential technique used to create many cocktails like the Mojito. Ian O'Leary/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

A muddler is an essential bar tool that is used to smash cocktail ingredients. It is used in some of the most popular cocktails such as the Caipirinha, Mojito, and Old-fashioned.

The muddler is nothing more than a bartender's pestle and it is very easy to use. Once you begin to use a muddler, you will wonder why you didn't have one before.

Choose Your Muddler

Muddlers come in a variety of materials and most are about the same size and basic design.

They are typically 6-8 inches long and about 1-2 inches in diameter, the perfect size to reach the bottom of the average mixing glass or cocktail shaker.

Wood Muddlers

Wood muddlers are the most popular and have been used in the bar since the first drinks were mixed. They come in two basic shapes: one looks like a miniature baseball bat with a flat bottom and the other is rather straight, similar in design to a windchime or handbell.

These are favorites for bartenders because they are durable, get the job done quickly, and are useful for other things (like cracking ice cubes into smaller pieces).

The one drawback to wood is that you need to take care of it because it is an organic material.

  • Never put a wood muddler in the dishwasher or leave it in standing water.
  • Clean your muddler in water immediately after use, especially when working with berries and other fruits that can stain the wood.
  • Wipe your muddler with a dry cloth to help it dry faster.

    Buy a Wooden Muddler from Amazon

    Plastic and Steel Muddlers

    In recent years, there has been a revolution in muddler design and many are now made out of plastic, stainless steel, or a combination of synthetic materials.

    • The majority of these muddlers follow the bat design of the wood muddlers because the thinner end is easy to grasp.
    • It is also common to find a muddler with teeth on the bottom. These are used to mash ingredients more efficiently and are great for quickly extracting juice from berries and other produce.

    The main advantage to plastic and steel muddlers is sanitation. Compared to wooden muddlers, the potential for bacteria and molds to grow or for the muddler to become damaged is much lower.

    Many are dishwasher safe and, depending on the material, there is virtually no staining from the darker fruits and herbs. Essentially, they are very easy to care for.

    5 Great Cocktail Muddlers for Bartenders

    Which Muddler Should You Choose?

    The answer to this question is going to depend on your style of mixing drinks and your personal preference. Choosing a muddler is just like choosing a cocktail shaker: there are many options and there is one that will suit you best.

    Personally, I like to have both around. I use the wood muddlers for everyday tasks; gentle muddling of delicate herbs and citrus fruit, and cracking ice.

    My modern muddlers are great for juicing berries, crushing hard ingredients like nuts, and for the messier muddle jobs.

    How to Use a Muddler

    In most cases, the point of muddling is not to smash the ingredients into a messy pulp, but to gently caress the essence out of it and this is where a lot of new bartenders go wrong.

    In the case of herbs, you are releasing the essential oils. For fruit, the goal is extracting the juice.

    1. Place your ingredients in the bottom of a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. Some cocktails are muddled directly in the serving glass as well.
    2. Gently press down and give a half turn of the muddler.
    3. Release and continue this motion until sufficiently muddled. This will generally take about 4-6 turns.

    More Tips for Muddling

    • Don't muddle in a shaker that has a plastic bottom because they are prone to cracking, even under the lightest of pressure.
    • Muddle before adding ice or you are just crushing ice, potentially over diluting the drink, and not properly muddling the ingredients that need it. This is sometimes called the "Portland muddle."

    Now that you know how to choose and use a muddler, it is time to put those skills to the test and discover a few muddled drinks to mix up.