If you've ever owned a wooden spoon (and let's face it, who hasn't?) then you'll know that wooden utensils aren't made to last a lifetime.
All wooden items used either in a kitchen or bar are breeding grounds for bacteria, retaining odours and residue from the last drink made.
What's more, as wood is porous, it can be subject to cracking and structural weakness due to moisture, which isn't good news for bar tools, especially the muddler.
So, how do you choose the right muddler? Here's our guide to getting the most from your muddler...
What makes a good muddler?
Muddling is often two things: 1) messy, from the splash back of fruit juice and 2) physical, putting stress on the bartender's joints.
A good muddler should be designed to help reduce or better eliminate these issues whilst being sturdy enough to protect a bartender's wrist and elbow joints.
Which muddler is right for me?
There are so many options out there, including plastic, steel and wooden variations, with and without teeth. You may prefer the feel of one material over another, but it's also important to think about longevity. This is a tool that gets a lot of wear and tear, and you may find that 'buy cheap, buy twice' becomes a rule here.
How can I reduce strain when muddling?
As Tales of The Cocktail point out, repetitive strain injuries can be quite common for bartenders. "According to ActiveCare Physical Therapy owner and director Karena Wu, bartenders commonly injure their low back, shoulders and elbows from the repetitive motions of bartending."
From stretching before a shift, it's equally important to use a tool with ergonomic design. Consider hand grip, comfort, feel and weight, together with the force required to get the job done.
Depending on the individual, requirements differ. For example, our BarStik™ is lightweight with a textured grip to reduce hand slippage, whereas the ProStik is heavier and best for repetitive muddling. For a night of a million mojitos (most bartenders have been there!), the ProCrush featuring our patented ProGrip™ comfort handle provides power and stability whilst reducing wrist and arm strain.
How can I reduce mess when muddling?
Fruit reflux or spray back is a common issue when a vacuum forms between ingredients and the bottom of a glass or tin. When a muddler is pulled back towards the user, the vacuum causes fruit juice and other ingredients to spray back up, making a mess.
To solve this problem, look for muddler heads with indentations that eliminate vacuum formation.
Does one muddler work on all ingredients?
Yes. The same design principles work across one tool, but they are employed in slightly different techniques:
1. How to muddle lime?
Keep chunks small and easy to manipulate. Don’t go too hard or you’ll pulverise all the goodness out and all that will remain will be bitter pith. With gentle pressure, twist the wrist to release both the juice and the oil.
2. How to muddle cucumber?
As cucumber has such a high water content, it is easy to squash. Muddle very gently for about six twists, until you can really smell the cucumber and then stop. You don't want to completely pulverise it!
3. How to muddle mint and other herbs?
Wind your mind back to high school science lessons and you will remember that thanks to photosynthesis, plants contain chlorophyll in their leaves. This includes herbs, and if you squash the leaves too much, they will release chlorophyll which tastes bitter. So when it comes to herbs, muddle very gently until you just release that mint (or whatever herb you're using) and can really smell the scent.