Bartenders Tips: Muddling (With Bonus Mint Julep Recipe)

Last weekend was National Muddling Wrong day, or as many know it the Kentucky Derby. That's right, the one day every year where everyone dresses in a big hat, pretends to know what a tri-fecta is, watches some horses run around a dirt track with a tiny man on it's back, and sip on a glass of bourbon that is masquerading as a mint julep.

Now, full disclosure, I did have a conversation at the Derby party I was at on Saturday about the proper way to muddle mint, and I will say, I came across sounding like a super douchey cocktail snob. 

Hopefully this post doesn't come across that way because, if anything, my goal is to improve your drinking. It doesn't matter if your tastes are more in line with Jim Beam or Pappy Van Winkle, what matters is that you enjoy what is in the cup.

Now, the best way to think about muddling, especially something like mint, is that you are trying to juice the oils out WITHOUT destroying or breaking the leaves or rind. The flavor that you are trying to extract by muddling, comes from the oils within the garnish, not the garnish itself. The reason you don't want to break up the leaves or the rind is doing so makes the flavor bitter. 

The best way to ensure you get the oils out is by pressing the rind or leaves with a muddler or a flat tool that doesn't break up the garnish. I usually add a little juice or simple syrup depending on the drink to give the oils something to soak into. 

Now a drink to practice your new muddling skills.

Recipe: Mint Julep


2.5oz Bourbon (I used Buffalo Trace)

.5oz Simple Syrup

4-5 Mint leaves

1 Mint Sprig to Garnish

Powdered Sugar (optional)


Place 4 or 5 mint leaves in the bottom of your glass with .5 ounce of simple syrup. Muddle (see above). Add crushed ice, stir until chilled. Add 2.5 ounces of Bourbon. Stirr. Top with more crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig. Dust with powdered sugar if desired. 

Now, make sure to get your bets in before post so you can hit your tri-fecta after your horse shows its colors on the home-stretch. 

Ross ColemanComment