MUDDLE THIS OVER
Muddling is a constant theme running through the recipes ( I even have an icon of a muffler next to the recipes that require muddling or that would be improved by muddling fruit or herbs as part of the preparation.) The standard muddler available at cocktail websites or in retail stores is not the same as the natural, hardwood muddler that I’m accustomed to using behind the bar, mine is made of hard fruitwood what disturbs me about tge new muddlets is that they are coated with a vanish that eventually wears off–right into your drink. Try to find the old style natural-wood muddlers, or buy a thick wooden spoon instead.
The muddler, toddy stick, or squeezing stick (as it was called in the nineteenth century) is a mandatory tool for a real cocktail bar. I use it for everything– to release the oils in citrus rind into a drink, to open the veins of a mint leaf into a julep— and sometimes I even use the handle to crack ice cubes. A muddler should be at least six inches long to reach to the bottom of the mixing glass, and the flat, or blunt, end of the muddler is always positioned down in the glass. At home, a wooden spoon or the pestle half of a mortar-and-pestle set can do nicely in a pinch.
The style of drink making that I have evolved over the years relies heavily on fresh fruit juices and fresh fruit pieces muddled in the drinks. I have played with many shapes and sizes of fruit pieces for muddling, and have come up with some cuts that work well for the different fruits.
- LEMON AND LIMES : Quarters work better here than the Wedges used for garnish. Wash the fruit and cut the nubs from both poles, then cut the fruit in half through the equator. Place both halves face down on the cutting board and cut into four equal quarters. The quarters are more compact than wedges and are easier to muddle snd mash in the bottom of a mixing glass.
- ORANGES : Because of their size, I muddle oranges in the slice form.
- PINEAPPLE : Cut off the rind and both ends. If you have a pineapple corer, remove the core; if not, cut one-inch-thick slicese crossways ( through the equator, not the pole). Cut the slices into a wheel of eight wedges, and use the pieces for muddling.
- MANGOS : Cut away or peel the skin, then cut around the large pit, making slices about one by two inches each.
There are two types of actions I perform with the muddler: muddling and bruising. I will just bruise soft fruits and herbs by muddling gently for a short time; the action of shaking with ice will do the rest of the job. With mint leaves, I don’t want to tear them in tiny pieces because then they become difficult to strsin out of the drink. Soft fruit, like mangos, I muddle very gently, then shake. And because I don’t want a lot of pulp and fiber in my drinks, I strain from the glass portion of my shaker using the julep strainer because it’s more thorough.
Muddling can turn everyday drinks into something special. Even a drink as simple ss the Rum and Coke can become something a little more interesting if you through a slice of lemon and a slice of lime in the bottom of the highball glass with the rum. Mash it a couple times with your muddler or wooden spoon, then add the Coke. The oil from the skin of the fruit as well as the juice will add extra flavor to the drink.