If you have ever reflected on the art of making cocktails, you will know the phrase – muddling cocktails. Or if you are like me, and you toss everything into a glass, whizz it around with the wrong end of the spoon and off you go, then maybe less so! However, if we are to create these artistic looking and tasting drinks that we see on Pinterest and across the internet, we need to learn the art of muddling cocktails. So what is it and how do you get it right?
First up, if you are a literal sort like my husband, muddling cocktails doesn’t involve mud. It is a term that describes the crushing of fruit, herbs and sugar to bring out the flavours before mixing them with alcohol to make a cocktail. While it is a relatively simple task when you get into it, it can go wrong and spoil that expensive booze. So learning the basics is good if you plan to make proper cocktails (and I’m learning with you!)
The first component of a successful muddle or muddling (?) is the muddler. Got to love all this terminology! The muddler is a device used by professional mixologists and is often made from bamboo or other wood. You can substitute it for the end of a wooden spoon or even a rolling pin. Avoid going for anything that is varnished or lacquered as there is a chance this coating will end up in your drink.
You can also come across stainless steel muddlers that have a plastic or hard rubber base. These work well too, just avoid anything with teeth as these will rip up the fruit or herbs and loose those precious oils that give the drinks their flavour.
The act of muddling
Next up is the glass or cocktail shaker – this needs to be pretty sturdy so a metal shaker is a good bet. You can also use a mixing glass or even a pint glass as these tend to be made from stronger stuff than delicate, pretty glasses, which can get broken during the muddling.
Put the herb or fruit in the bottom of the shaker. Add in other ingredients to be muddled such as sugar and place the muddler on top. Press lightly and give a few gentle twists. If there is fruit, you will juice appear and if there are herbs, the aroma will quickly fill the room.
Resist the urge to muddle into a pulp as you want them to still resemble their original form – the look of the drink is second only to the taste, remember.
Finishing the drink
Depending on the recipe you are using, you may now need a strainer if you didn’t have one before. The muddled ingredients are added to it along with the alcohol and any mixers, shaken and strained into the glass. Other recipes call for the muddled herbs or fruit to remain in the glass as they were, without straining.
The Mojito is perhaps one of the most famous muddled cocktails where the flavour of the fruit and herbs is crucial to the flavour of the drink. For the classic Mojito, you first take two wedges of lime and two teaspoons of caster sugar then muddle them. Next, muddle around 12 leaves of mint or however much suits your taste, in with the lime and sugar. Add glass to around ¾ full and then four in 50ml of white rum and a dash of soda water. Stir everything with a bar spoon and add a sprig of mint for that finishing touch.
Do you have a favourite muddled cocktail? And what do you use to muddle your ingredients? Share your tips and secrets here!