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A muddler is a bar tending tool which is designed to crush the ingredients used in cocktails, creating a mash called a muddle which releases flavors into the resulting drink. A well stocked bar will typically have an assortment of muddlers which can be used in various glasses and to blend various drinks. Many kitchen and bar tending supply stores carry muddlers; you can also use other kitchen utensils like spoons in a pinch.
A classic muddler takes the form of a rod with a slightly flared bulbous end. The very end of the rod is flattened, allowing the bartender to crush ingredients against the side of the glass, and the flared end can be used like a pestle to grind ingredients in a glass. Some bartenders also use flattened spoons as muddlers; the flattened section of the spoon can be used to crush things against the side of the glass.
When a bar tender uses a muddler, he or she crushes ingredients like limes, lemons, and mint against the glass before pouring ice in. The crushing with the muddler encourages these ingredients to release their volatile aromatic oils, where the flavor is concentrated. When ice, mixer, and alcohol are added, these oils blend with the ingredients, creating a very intense, rich flavor.
A muddler can also be used to stir a drink, blending the ingredients together for an even flavor. Muddlers are commonly used to make drinks like mojitos and lemon drops; in both cases, the drink will taste more complex if a muddler is used to release the flavor compounds in the mint and lemon respectively. Bartenders can also use muddlers as juicing instruments to extract juice from wedges of lemon, lime, and other fruits.
Many muddlers are made from wood, because wood will not react with ingredients. Glass, ceramic, and bone muddlers can also be found; all of these construction materials share the trait of minimal reactivity. Glass and ceramic muddlers are easy to clean, as they can typically be run through a dishwasher; wood and bone require more careful maintenance, and they may even on occasion need to be oiled.
Ideally, a muddler should be kept on a hook or in a rack so that it does not come into contact with the surface of the bar. This ensures that the muddler will not acquire unexpected flavors or stains from sitting in pools of water and alcohol. It also keeps the bar more tidy and organized, ensuring that a bar tender has access to the tools he or she needs to work quickly during busy periods.
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