Muddled Madness

Muddled Madness

There are a lot of intricacies in the craft beverage industry.  They range from managing your distillery all the way through understanding how to serve your hooch.  One awesome technique serving drinks is muddling.  Knowing a bartender's muddling techniques and their view of how this crucial step is handled is an excellent window into knowing whether or not they genuinely get cocktails or they just see bartending as another job.

Muddling is an art, and the way it’s done for one cocktail isn’t the way it would or should be done for another. Even the muddler itself can make a difference depending if they’re metal, wooden, or plastic - according to some at least.

Test your muddling techniques with these recipes.

Caipirinha

While no one can say for sure where the Caipirinha originated, the story that starts the least arguments is that it came from the Alentejo region of Portugal. It's a good drink that people would often use as a cure for everything from the common cold to the Spanish Flu.

Ingredients

  • Half of a lime (Quartered)
  • 1 tsp. Superfine Sugar or ½ oz. Simple Syrup
  • 2 oz. Unaged Cachaça

Directions

Take an Old Fashioned glass, and muddle the sugar and lime. You can muddle this one like a red-headed stepchild. No need to be nice. You want to release the juices as well as get the fruity pulp loose. Metal or plastic muddlers work fine here. Next, add the cachaça, top with crushed ice, and gently stir.

The Mojito

The origins of the mojito may go back all the way to the 16th Century, but the version that became popular got noticed in the 19th Century and was further refined in Prohibition Era Havana. The Mojito is a refreshing drink in that it came into existence and evolved naturally, and isn't the product of bartenders pushing the limits of their art. 

Ingredients

  • 6-8 Mint Leaves
  • 1 tsp. Superfine Sugar or ½ oz. Simple Syrup
  • 1 oz. Lime Juice (Save the lime peel)
  • 2 oz. White Rum
  • Club Soda

Directions

Place the mint leaves in the bottom of a Tom Collins glass with the sugar and lime juice. Muddle them gently, preferably with a wooden muddler. The goal is to release the essential oils and flavors of the mint leaves without obliterating them. Pour in the white rum, and some crushed ice. Add in the lime peel, stir, and garnish with a mint sprig.

Mint Julep

This cocktail is definitely one of the fancier and more proper of all mixed drinks. If one had been a passenger on the Titanic, it would have dressed up like a woman to steal a spot on a lifeboat. The Mint Julip is believed to have originated sometime during the 18th Century, and as many of you already know, it’s the official cocktail of The Kentucky Derby. There are various differences of opinion of what makes a “proper” mint julip, and even if you don’t think this recipe is it, it’s still a good one.

Ingredients

  • 8-10 Mint Leaves
  • 1 tsp. Superfine Sugar or ½ oz simple syrup
  • 2 ½ oz. Bourbon (Kentucky and high proof, if you want traditional)
  • Crushed Ice

Directions

Put the mint leaves at the bottom of a tall Collins glass, or silver cup if you’re being fancy, and muddle them gently with a wooden muddler. You only want to release the essential oils and flavor of the mint leaves – not squish out some mint puree. Pour in the bourbon, add the crushed ice, and gently stir. Mound a little more ice on the top and garnish with a couple of mint twigs.

Conclusion

The recipes for muddled cocktails need to be approached as the individual creatures that they are. It isn’t like mixing up a box of Hamburger Helper or brownie mix. It takes a certain level of passion for mixed drinks, and an understanding of them beyond their ingredients.