Drinks

Muddled Up

The right way to muddle fruit, sugar and herbs into cocktails
Photo: Lizzie Munro/Tasting Table

Mixing cocktails at home is an art that's easier to perfect than you might think. It may sound intimidating, but once you're armed with a few basic skills, you'll be whipping up drinks in no time.

Muddling, the act of crushing fruit, sugar and herbs to draw out flavors and help them mix with alcohol, sounds like one of the simpler tasks in the art of mixology. If you're not careful, however, a lot can go wrong. The good news is that these potential missteps are very easy to avoid.

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Here are a few important guidelines to follow to ensure you're muddling properly.

① Make Sure You're Using the Right Glass
This one's simple: Use a sturdy glass or cocktail shaker, otherwise you might end up breaking your vessel, and no one wants that. Try this Mid-Century Cocktail Shaker ($20), which you can buy here, or this copper shaker ($219).

② Also Make Sure You're Using the Right Muddler
Look for wooden or bamboo muddlers, or ones with a rubber tip, because they won't overly bruise the herbs. You can also use the end of a wooden spoon or rolling pin. Try a Color Block Muddler ($20), which you can buy here.

③ Twist, Don't Pound
As desperate as you are to have your drink ready, pounding isn't going to get you there any faster. In fact, it could damage the herbs, leaving them unsightly and bitter. Instead of jamming the muddler up and down, press down and twist.

④ Handle Herbs with Care
In that same vein, you don't want to overwork the herbs, so add delicate ones like basil in after you've gone after the fruit and sugar for a while. If you're making something like a mojito and using only tender herbs like mint, just be gentle with them.

While we'll take an excuse to pretend it's summer and happily sip on an Over the Field, a drink made with arugula, lemon and lime marmalade, muddled cocktails aren't necessarily warm-weather-only drinks. Use these techniques on colder-weather beverages like Moscow Mules or this rye whiskey and Sardinian mirto cocktail with muddled thyme. It's an all-seasons sport.

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