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Don't have a muddler? No problem. You probably have one of these substitutes in your kitchen.

With the Kentucky Derby just around the corner (and summer just beyond), it’s time to brush up on muddling: crushing up cocktail ingredients in the bottom of the glass or shaker before adding ice and booze. You may know that the Mint Julep is the official cocktail of Derby season, and if it sounds too complicated to make, it’s not. You just need to grab some bourbon and get your muddle on. Here are some tips.

  • Muddling does not mean “mutilating,” “shredding beyond recognition” or “crushing into oblivion.” The point of pressing mint leaves into the bottom of your glass or cocktail shaker is not to incorporate bits of mint into your cocktail, it’s to release the concentrated essential oils in the mint leaves so they can infuse the bourbon. To emphasize: you do not want tons of little mint scraps in your cocktail. When the leaves begin to tear apart, they’re muddled.
  • A little grainy sugar can help speed the muddling process (and infuse it with mint, which is always nice).
  • You do not need a muddler to muddle, but you absolutely do need to muddle or you won’t end up with anything close to a julep, and that would be a damn shame. We like the handle of a sturdy wooden spoon if a muddler isn’t readily available (got $3?). But really, any stick-like implement will do the trick. The ends will justify the means.

Now try out your new skills with our favorite spin on the classic Mint Julep (it’s boozier) and remember: we’re NOT annihilating fresh herbs here.

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