Stop Muddling Your Mint When You're Making Mojitos

It’s hot. You’re thirsty. And you want a refreshing, summery cocktail that’s as easy to make as it is easy to down. Enter the mojito: that classic rum-based drink that’s perfect for summertime. Jim Meehan says the oldest recipe comes from a 1929 cocktail book called Libro de Cocktail, but since then, of course, we’ve seen variations galore. Jose Enrique makes a pineapple mojito, while Jean-Georges uses kumquats. 

Though recipes vary, most call for muddling mint. According to Nomad Bar Director Pietro Collina, however, you actually shouldn’t muddle those leaves. Muddling will create a bitter taste, he says. All you have to do is remove the leaves from the stem, and throw them into the shaker with the rest of the ingredients. The mint flavor will still be pronounced, but you’ll avoid any bitter flavor or discoloration from pounding the leaves.

Of course, if you’re master mixologist Dave Arnolod—founder and president of the Museum of Food and Drink, who just opened new bar Existing Conditions in NYC’s Greenwich Village this week—you could use liquid nitrogen to freeze the leaves to avoid what he calls the “swampy” taste that results from muddling. Since not everyone has liquid nitrogen lying around at home, though, Arnold suggests using a blender as an alternative: just a quick pulse with all the ingredients, and passing everything through a strainer. This method won’t impart quite as fresh a flavor as the liquid nitrogen technique, but it’s better than crushing the leaves by hand. Take note, however: With the blender method, it’s crucial to make at least two drinks, Arnold cautions, because the blade needs to be completely covered with the herbs. No problem there.

Another pro tip? When you’re garnishing a cocktail—mojito or otherwise—with a sprig of mint, don’t simply plop it in the glass, Collina says. Instead, twist it in your hand, then stick the sprig in, let go and watch the leaves unfurl. The garnish will look fresh and alive this way—a brighter garnish to match that brighter-tasting, muddle-free mojito. And without the muddling, you’re cocktail will be ready to drink that much faster.

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