The Trouble with Ice Muddling

Visit a dozen different bars, and you will most likely see more than a dozen different techniques for doing essentially the same thing. Juicing is one of those things that every bar has to deal with one way or another, and there are countless ways to tackle it, not all of them very good.

The “Ice Muddle” is one of the “juicing” techniques I often see used by bartenders to make drinks like the Margarita, Mojito, Daiquiri, and other sour style drinks. It has a certain amount of sound and fury to it, which makes for a good show, but in the end it produces sub-par results on several levels. For some reason it appears to be rather prevalent here in my home town of Seattle, which is why Gary Regan coined the term “Seattle Muddle” to describe it when he was in town to research one of his books.

While the ice muddle at least shows a desire to use fresh juices in cocktails, it does so at the cost of not being able to provide a proper measure, and in overly damaging the ice as well. It also is a technique that can only really be done with poor quality “chip” ice, and not the nice large cubes which are preferred.

Dry muddling is a better approach to getting fresh juice, and if you then measure the juice properly, it can work quite well.


2 oz Silver Tequila

1 oz Cointreau

3/4 oz fresh lime juice


Add all ingredients with ice to a cocktail shaker.

Shake to chill and dilute.

Strain into a cocktail coupe.


blair frodelius 6 Nov 2014
3:30 pm

I remember the first time I had a Caipirinha and I was told to muddle the lime, sugar and ice all together.  Yes, it worked, but was a pain in the *ss to maneuver in the glass with all that ice! 

There is no reason to muddle with ice.  Shake, yes.  Muddle, no. 

Oh, and I’m surprised your Margarita is on the rocks.  But, to be honest, I’m going through a rocks phase myself.  Enjoying everything from Negronis to Old-Fashioneds on ice.  It extends the drink, but still keeps the flavor intact.  Plus, it keeps your cocktail ice-cold.


Blair Frodelius

Paris Piedade Neto 7 Nov 2014
9:37 am

Blair, you’r right ... specially if you’r getting a high quality clear ( or near clear ice ) ... I am from Brazil and love caipirinhas, and always were fascinated why it was so good on some places but not on others. The only caveat about about that drink in particular is the essential oils in the skins of the lime. When you do it in the glass, the drink is better. I like to do it without the ice and add the ice on the end, but somethimes I do on a cocktail glass, strain and add virgin fruit to the final glass with little muddling to simulate ....

but in the end, for home or non classic enjoyment. ALWAYS ADD ICE !!!

Robert Hess 7 Nov 2014
9:48 am

The Caipirinha is one of those drinks where the form of the ritual trumps the rule of careful measuring. So a “dry muddle” is the right way to do it here, and with granulated sugar instead of simple syrup. I think of the Caipirinha as sort of a rustic daiquiri. They are both “essentially” the same drink, but the Caipirinha has a little more personality to it due to its preparation.

Paris Piedade Neto 7 Nov 2014
9:52 am

Perfect Robert ... that’s a lot of knowledge for a “gringo” about a brazilian staple ... I know caipirinha is a Global drink for many years, but still it is remarkable how much you can research and learn from one single “recipe”. You nailed and explained a lot in a simple fashion, what took me years in practice to learn ( don’t blame me, it was a hard work ). Cheers !

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