When I decided to become serious about making non alcoholic drinks I went out and researched the tools needed for the trade. As I am from a small northern town, getting said tools turned out to be a challenge – but I muddled through by hitting up the dollar store and grabbing the next best things. Instead of a cocktail shaker, I grabbed a tupperware like shaker/measuring cup thing that was about the same shape. Instead of a julep spoon or cocktail strainer, I plucked a plastic can strainer from the shelf. And instead of a muddler, I worked with a meat tenderizer hammer and used the side of that.
And the thing is that all these tools did the job, didn’t look very cool I admit, but they did work. I muddled through and continued to work on recipes.
When I finally did pick up a cocktail shaker, I have found that the strainer in the top really doesn’t work well with bigger items that tend to clog it up. So for the purposes of making beverages that are fresh and interesting, without the alcohol, I found that I wasn’t using the cocktail shaker as was created but tended towards the practices of some professionals, sticking a glass on top, shaking and straining with a separate tool. I eventually replaced my plastic strainer with a real cocktail strainer, and yes it’s a nice tool to have, but it’s the muddler that has become my favourite irreplaceable tool.
According to wikipedia a “muddler is a bartender‘s tool, used like a pestle to mash—or muddle—fruits, herbs, and/or spices in the bottom of a glass to release their flavour.” If you are going to try to make drinks that taste fresh, powerful and edgy, you can either stick fresh fruits and veggies into a blender and strain out the chunks (or not) with a fine mesh strainer, pick up a juicer, or muddle the items in juice or syrup and then strain. While I have used the blender method – and it’s great for smoothies – but staining the juice takes time.
The first time I heard about a muddler was watching Luis Sanchez on youtube. I was looking up the impossible dream – virgin martinis. Luis will show you three absolutely fabulous recipes that use fresh fruit, herbs and spices – each which I have tried and love. Since then I have invented my own creations, muddling herbs with simple syrups and spices with fruit to see what works. And I got to tell you that while muddling through with a meat tenderizer was ok, the real thing is much cooler!