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Muddlers are far more than a one-trick pony for making a Mojito. An excellent muddler will help you incorporate a range of fruits, herbs, and other spices and flavors into your drinks. From expressing the mint in a Mojito to crafting a Caipirinha, a muddler is just as important to building a home bar as a bar spoon or a good shaker.
“When you’re using a muddler, keep in mind that you’re not in a Mojito commercial,” describes Alex Negranza, the bar manager at MARCH, and Rosie Cannonball in Houston. “An efficient muddler isn’t about pulverizing your herb arch-nemesis, it’s about extracting the right flavors for the right ingredient.” To help pick the perfect muddler for your bar, a group of bartenders weigh in on their favorites, below.
Best Overall: Cocktail Kingdom Badass Muddler
As any bartender will tell you, Cocktail Kingdom makes the gold standard of bar equipment. The barware giant works with cocktail writers and famed bartenders (like Dale Degroff and Don Lee) to build bar tools that not only look attractive but can perform well in a fast-paced bar setting. Case in point: the brand’s Bad Ass Muddler. The two-sided muddler performs double duty: one rounded side allows for softer muddling (like mint and herbs that bruise easily) while the harder edge on the reverse side has a textured edge for tougher ingredients.
At 8.75 inches long, the handle of the muddler is outfitted with textured, grippable sides to keep the muddler securely in your hand. To clean up this food-grade muddler, simply rinse with soap and water or toss it in the dishwasher.
Good to Know: Keep an eye on the length of the muddler. If you muddle your cocktails in the shaker, look for longer muddlers so you are not scraping your hand on the edge of a tin.
Best Bamboo: Piña Barware Professional Cocktail Muddler
“I would recommend the 12-inch Piña Barware Professional Cocktail Muddler,” says Piero Procida, the director of food and beverage at The London West Hollywood in Beverly Hills. “Bamboo muddlers, in general, are a favorite because they absorb less liquid, so staining your clothes and cutting boards is less common. The wood also has natural antibacterial properties to it, so bacteria is not being absorbed into the wood.”
At twelve inches long, this muddler is made with pale natural bamboo with a round handle designed to fit snugly in your hand. A flat-surfaced end quickly muddles herbs and fruit. “These muddlers are light and comfortable to use and are considered a more sustainable choice as well, especially for properties where green initiatives are important. A longer muddler is always better to protect your knuckles from the edges of your shaker,” says Procida.
Good To Know: “I would say the best tip I have for muddling is to always press your muddler down and give a little twist as you make contact with whatever you are muddling,” says Rochelle Tougas, general manager of the FM Kitchen & Bar in Houston. “I find I tend to also keep it going in a full circle when I muddle; by which I mean I go around the clock as I pick up the muddler to macerate more rather than macerating in the center over and over.”
Best Budget: Barfly Muddler
“I really like the Barfly Muddler. It's long enough to use in any glass or shaker, it is easy to clean and won't absorb flavors,” recommends Seth Falvo, a bartender at Cambria Madeira Beach in Madeira Beach, Florida. “Plus, it's particularly affordable!”
One of the biggest draws of this muddler is it is customizable: pick from wood, or composite (many prefer composite because wood muddlers can break down and splinter with age). And choose your length: the 12-inch muddler is ideal for muddling directly in a shaker, or the 8-inch and 9-inch options are better if you’re looking to muddle in just glasses. An extra-wide flat base gives more than enough surface area for extracting flavors from ingredients.
Best Set: Cresimo Muddler Bar Tool Set
This low-effort set includes all you need for your next Mojito night: an easy-to-clean muddler and a stainless steel bar spoon with a trident fork for stirring up a cocktail.
This 10-inch muddler features a grooved nylon head for mashing down citrus, herbs and spices—the textured head quickens the muddling process and extracts more flavor. The stainless steel and nylon muddler is rust-proof and durable but can be easily cleaned in the dishwasher. Unlike wood muddlers that often crack and leave residue (if you opt for lower-end options), the tough nylon is designed to stand the test of time. The heavier weight of this muddler allows you to crush down ice cubes. The brand even tosses in a digital recipe book for brushing up on the classics.
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Best for Mojitos: Hard Maple Muddler Mallet and Lewis Ice Bag
Juleps and Caiprinihas just aren’t the same without a big serving of crushed ice. With that in mind, this set comes with a muddler and a Lewis bag: a heavy-duty canvas bag designed specifically for crushing up ice quickly and without making a mess.
At a whopping 13.75 inches long, this muddler doubles as a mallet for crushing up ice cubes for the perfect Mojito or Julep. The 100% cotton bag is triple-stitched and designed to absorb extra liquids, ensuring your countertop won’t flood when crushing ice. Simply add up to 14-ounces of ice, swing the muddler, and add the ice to your favorite drink. The muddler is made with durable, high-density Canadian maple. A mineral oil finish showcases the handsome grain and protects the muddler from flaking.
Good to Know: When it comes to Mojito maintenance, H. Joseph Ehrmann, proprietor of Elixir in San Francisco and co-founder of Fresh Victor, recommends to “avoid painted, stained or lacquered muddlers. They will chip and come off in your drink! And be sure to clean well after every use with dish soap.” For hardwood muddlers, “keep them in good shape with mineral oil, just like a wooden cutting board.”
Best Wood: David Wondrich Cato Muddler
Gavin Humes, the director of food and beverage at Scratch Restaurants uses the David Wondrich Cato Muddler. “I like the feel and weight of it, and it does a great job of muddling without smashing the products.” As it should, considering that Wondrich is one of the world’s leading cocktail historians and a James Beard award-winning author.
The design is inspired by Cato Alexander, one of the founders of the American cocktail scene who was mixing and muddling up gin cocktails and Juleps as early as the early 1810s. Made with non-treated, non-varnished Ipe Brazilian hardwood, the muddler does require special care and oiling. That said, while it may not make a great option for high-speed, heavy-duty bar services, it makes an excellent showpiece muddler. The muddler is 7.5-inches in length and features a flat bottom and a large handle for a great grip.
Best Splurge: Gary’s Custom Cocktail Muddlers
"Gary Appel by far makes the best muddlers,” describes Negranza. “They are gorgeous and are the equivalent of buying yourself something nice as a bartender. This was the first muddler I was given, gifted to me by my first bar mentor. I’ve had it ever since, and it’s one of my most cherished bar tools.”
While this wooden muddler is a bit of a splurge, Appel makes every one by hand using the best wood available—mainly Argentine Osage orange, Chechen, Mesquite, Bocote and Tiger Wood. Each muddler is hand-carved and finished with oil and a wood-burned stamp. “Muddlers are about finesse,” he continues. “This muddler is the equivalent of buying your herb a drink, taking it out to dinner and a movie, and then calling it the next day." It’s an excellent option to give to your favorite cocktail nerd.