Muddling is a bartender's technique for releasing flavor from solid cocktail ingredients. The basic idea is as simple as crushing the fruit or herb, but there are devils in the details ready to make your cocktail bitter or unpleasant. Learn how to do it the right way, and you won't have to muddle through on your own intuition.

Method 1
Method 1 of 2:

Muddling Mint and Other Soft Herbs

  1. A small, flat wooden tool is ideal, such as the end of a wooden spoon or a French rolling pin (without handles). Plastic or hard rubber tools will also work, but require a delicate touch. Avoid muddlers with teeth, since these tear up the leaves too much.[1]
  2. Do not muddle in a delicate glass that may chip or break when struck. If the cocktail also calls for fruit, cucumber, or other non-herb ingredients, muddle them separately for best results.
    • Granulated sugar tears into the ingredients as you muddle. This can be overkill for soft herbs, so add it with the fruit instead, or dissolve it in a few drops of water and add it to the cocktail separately.
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  3. Mint, basil, and other soft leaves release bitter flavors when crushed or torn apart. Just press down gently with the blunt tool while you twist your wrist, then release.[3] Do this two or three times.
    • Use your dominant hand to muddle while you hold the glass steady with your other hand.
    • You only need to lightly bruise the leaves to release the oils and aroma.[4]
  4. The leaves are ready when lightly bruised, but still intact. You should be able to smell the herb, since the goal of muddling is to release flavorful, aromatic oils. You can leave the herbs in the final cocktail for presentation or strain them out, as desired.
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Method 2
Method 2 of 2:

Muddling Fruits and Vegetables

  1. Citrus fruits, cucumbers, and other fruits and vegetables can take a fair amount of pressure. A broad muddler is a great choice, especially if it has teeth to break into the skin. You can also improvise with the back of a wooden spoon, a mortar and pestle, or any blunt instrument.[5]
    • Stainless steel or heavy plastic provide more heft than wood.[6] Note that fruit juice will stain some plastics.
  2. Cut citrus fruit into wedges, and hard ingredients such as cucumbers into ¼ inch (6 mm) thick slices.[7] Put these ingredients into a glass that you can press and grind without risk of chipping.
    • If using a mortar and pestle, put the ingredients in the mortar bowl instead.
  3. If you are using granulated sugar instead of simple syrup, add it now. Sugar will dissolve in fruit juice more readily than in alcohol, so incorporating it at this stage can save your cocktail from a gritty fate.[8]
  4. Hold the glass steady and cup the end of the muddler with your dominant hand. Press the tool down steadily onto the fruit rather than bashing the glass. Press hard and twist, then release and repeat. You can press against the sides or base of the glass.
  5. The goal of muddling is to break up the peel and flesh to release flavorful oils and juices. You can stop when you smell a strong scent and see the ingredients release liquid, or continue muddling to intensify the flavor.
    • Citrus fruit can release plenty of bitter oils when muddled with prolonged force. This can work well in sugary drinks such as the caipirinha or mojito. Use a lighter touch when muddling for drinks with no added sugar.
    • Cucumbers are ready after six or seven gentle presses.[10]
    • Press berries and other soft fruits until pulverized.
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Expert Q&A

  • Question
    How do you muddle without a muddler?
    Kady Richardson Kady Richardson is a mixologist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kady has completed the Comprehensive Bartending Training Program at The Cocktail Camp in San Francisco and specializes in creating approachable, at-home recipes for cocktails. Kady holds a BA in American Studies and an MA in Sociology from Stanford University.
    Kady Richardson
    Mixologist
    Expert Answer
    You'll want to use something with a wide base, like the spoon portion of a wooden spoon. If you need to, you can use something like a fork, but that might destroy your ingredients more than you want.
  • Question
    Can I use a blender for cucumbers instead of muddling?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    Not really. A blender will totally liquefy the cucumber, which will release stronger flavors. If you don't have a muddler, you can use the handle of a sturdy wooden spoon or ladle.
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Warning

  • Avoid tools made from aluminum or other reactive metals, especially when muddling with citrus. These can leach a metallic taste into your drink.
  • Muddling with ice in the glass just makes the process needlessly difficult. Add the ice afterward.
  • Avoid varnished or lacquered wood. The finish will eventually wear off into the cocktail.[14]

Things You'll Need

  • Muddling implement
  • Strong glass or Boston shaker
  • Ingredients for the drink


About This Article

Kady Richardson
Co-authored by:
Mixologist
This article was co-authored by Kady Richardson. Kady Richardson is a mixologist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kady has completed the Comprehensive Bartending Training Program at The Cocktail Camp in San Francisco and specializes in creating approachable, at-home recipes for cocktails. Kady holds a BA in American Studies and an MA in Sociology from Stanford University. This article has been viewed 134,071 times.
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Co-authors: 14
Updated: January 9, 2024
Views: 134,071
Categories: Cocktails
Article SummaryX

To muddle fresh herbs for a cocktail, you’ll need a muddling tool, like the end of a wooden spoon. Place the herbs in the bottom of a sturdy glass, then gently press down on them and twist with the end of your muddling tool. Do this no more than 2-3 times so that you bruise the leaves and release the juices without completely destroying the herbs. Hold the glass steady with your non-dominant hand as you work. Add the rest of the ingredients to the cocktail. If you want to muddle other ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables, do so separately with a mortar and pestle. These kinds of ingredients usually require a little more force to muddle properly.

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