When Ordering A Cocktail, What Does 'Stick Drink' Mean?

If you are a fan of the mojito, the mint julep, or a whiskey smash, you drink stick drinks. What are stick drinks? It's just bartender speak for those cocktails that have ingredients that need to be muddled. This is accomplished with a big stick called a cocktail muddler, hence why it is affectionately called a "stick drink." The muddler is used to smash sugar cubes, herbs, and fruits to extract their juices and flavors to create bright and refreshing cocktails and mocktails.  

This bar tool is not new and before it was known as a muddler it was called a "toddy stick." The toddy stick originated in bars in the 18th century but fell out of fashion with the invention of another bar tool: ice. That said, the toddy stick never truly fell out of vogue but instead morphed into what we call a muddler. Today you can find them made out of metal or plastic in addition to wood.

Be a muddler master

If you are a fan of stick drinks, there is an art to muddling, and if you want to be the master. You need to make certain that you don't over-muddle. If you do, you may find your drinks have a bitter taste to them, and that is not what your taste buds are hoping for. The key to muddling delicate herbs is pouring a little simple syrup into the cocktail glass and then adding your herbs. The goal is to bruise the herbs so they release their oils. You know you've achieved this goal when they look like they have a wet crinkle. But don't muddle them to the point that you've torn them to bits. This will cause some of those bitter flavors you don't want.

Stick drinks that require fruits, on the other hand, the type you might use in a lemonade cocktail, are a different story. Fruits are not fragile like your paper-thin leafy herbs and can withstand the pounding needed to free their juices. Just don't destroy the peel or you will release an acerbic taste your tongue will not enjoy.