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How to Hold a Muddler

How to Hold a Muddler

Isn’t it fun when a supposed “expert” on something is proved wrong on some fundamental detail?  Well, I’m becoming known as the resident drink snob among my friends and family because of my “research” for these blog posts, so when I saw the picture at left, I was humbled by my apparent ignorance of a very basic drink-making skill.

How NOT to hold a Muddler

How NOT to hold a Muddler

Among seasoned bartenders, I’m sure there isn’t much confusion about which end of the muddler you should use to smash the flavorful base of some of our favorite cocktails.  But I’m new to the bartending game, despite all my newfound drink snobbery, so I was confused.  Partly because there is such a wide variety of shapes of muddlers, and partly because I’m pretty sure someone messed up on the packaging for a muddler that I’m giving away as part of a Christmas gift.

I suppose I could’ve just asked someone who knew… but that would be too unMANly.

I figured I could find the answer on the internet. (Who knew internet searches were MANly?) “How to Hold a Muddler” is the first phrase I searched.  I’ve included a few links I found below that corroborated my assumption to use the carved, flat end to press the sugar, bitters, and fruit.  Unfortunately for the manufacturers of the muddler I just purchased, it means they should revise the diagram (see picture at left) they show on the back of their packaging.

If your muddler looks like the one in these pictures, and you’re holding it like a baseball bat, you’re holding it upside-down.

Muddler BASICS.

Muddler BASICS.

For many muddlers, it’s quite easy to see which end points down, because they are patterned with ridges that put extra pressure on the fruit and/or herbs that you’re trying to smash.  But for some muddlers (like the one I’m giving away for Christmas, pictured below), it might be a little confusing.  For these and other similar muddlers, if one end isn’t already stained by repeated use, a rule of thumb would be to use the larger of the flat ends.

Here’s a link to a blog post with pictures of a properly-held muddler; although, the recipe for an Old Fashioned in this one doesn’t use any water or soda, so I don’t recommend it: http://savoystomp.com/2009/05/15/old-fashioned-cocktail/

A video of an opinionated fellow with lots of muddling experience:

A couple showing their multi-fruit muddling technique: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5UD_2dSrYg

A bartender that uses simple syrup instead of a sugar cube; again, no water or soda, so I’m not a fan of this recipe:

And here’s a link to the scene where Don Draper makes an Old Fashioned for himself and Conrad Hilton, which I blogged about last week: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=fvwp&NR=1&v=2VpgEHsPc7I

(For the record, Don uses the wider of the two rounded ends of his simple muddler.)

Happy Muddling!

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About Clayton Grow

Clayton is an independent writer, mainly for the engineering and construction industries. He vents his creativity through posts on Jennifer's Review about television, popular culture, and, of course, alcohol. He appreciates the intangible joy in beauty, irony, and friendship as much as he is excited to inform others about algae growth fueled by CO2 from combustion exhaust.


  1. Well, back in the day when I made hundreds of OFs I would soak the cube and fruit in the bitters before hand because there were so many to make when the dinner rush at the supper club wandered in. I would then muddle with the “club” end of the muddler (I guess because it was stained by years of use) and maybe because the “baseball bat” end just felt better in my hand. When I muddled I really juiced the fruit because the cube and bitters had already mingled. I was taught to really get the rind part of the fruit because that is where the best flavor is! When do we get to see you make an after dinner ice cream drink?

  2. The fact that you muddled your Old Fashioneds at all completely makes up for using the “wrong” end of the muddler. I’m sure it doesn’t actually matter which end you use with some muddlers, I was just confused, so I thought I’d do a bit of research and post what I found. Thanks for reading!
    Clayton Grow´s last blog post ..Engineer-y DreamsMy Profile

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