What is muddling? I had a customer request a muddled orange and a muddled lemon in his cocktail. When I did so, he looked at me with a baffled expression. “Why didn’t you crush the ice?” I was really confused when I was asked this. Of course, I had just moved to Seattle and just started bartending in the Pacific Northwest. I hadn’t taken the time to go out and about and see what he was talking about. I have to admit that the first time I saw a bartender “crush the ice” I cringed. What the hell was he doing? I have never seen this blatant destruction of a cocktail and the customers actually requesting this. So I ask again, what is muddling?
To muddle the fruit and herbs into a cocktail requires a certain technique (Muddling Video). You do not destroy the ingredients by crushing it with the ice. Mint loses its flavor when destroyed. The funny thing is that customers have been conditioned here to believe that muddling means throwing some fruit and ice in a glass and crushing it all. That is not muddling. It is a lot like the Starbucks caramel macchiato syndrome. A long time ago in a galaxy far away I was a superstar barista in college. I cranked out single and double macchiatos like nobody’s business. Then one day someone asked for a caramel macchiato. I simply put a shot of Sterling caramel syrup into a single macchiato. The customer was very upset. He couldn’t understand why it wasn’t 16 ounces of sweet dessert-like caramel heaven. “Sir, that is what you ordered.” Ok, back to mixology. My point to that story is that when a certain technique is widely accepted by a market, right or wrong, it is automatically presumed correct. How do we re-educate Seattle?
I feel like Seattlelites are missing out on great tasting muddled cocktails because of poorly trained bartenders and the wide acceptance of commonly used techniques. I challenge my fellow bartenders to take a minute and learn your craft. You are paid to craft the proper tasting muddled drink. I firmly believe the mixologists out there just don’t know or haven’t been taught. I have gotten into the habit of asking guests if they want me to crush the ice. I crush the ice separately in a shaker, then add it to the muddled contents.
I challenge you! Yes, you the customer, to stop your bartender when he begins to muddle incorrectly. Let him know that you want him muddle correctly. I promise you, you are in for a far superior cocktail. You all have watched the video posted above. Show him! Educate him!
I am proud to call Seattle home. Those of you who know me on a personal level know that I have been contemplating a move back east. I am starting to fall in love with the Seattle culture, but I can’t have my foodie friends from back east visiting me with all that incorrect muddling going on. How can we brag about the foodie culture here when we can’t do a simple thing like muddle correctly. It may not seem like much, but it is one of the first things I noticed here.