To Muddle Or Not Muddle Your Mint: That Is The Mojito Question

Nothing can boost your mojo in the sweltering heat of summer quite like a cool, refreshing mojito cocktail. Easy to drink and just as easy to make, this rum-based concoction has been a constant in bar menus for decades. However, if you make your mojito at home, there's one step that, depending on who you ask, is either a must-do or a must-avoid: muddling the mint.


Muddling involves gently pressing down on the mint leaves using a mortar-like tool (called a muddler) to press the cool essences within the leaves out. Most mojito recipes will tell you to do this since it should result in a more flavorful drink. However, some mixologists will tell you that this is a mistake. Crushing the mint could potentially result in a bitter-tasting mojito due to the earthy essence of this herb.

So, which way is it? It depends. The answer ultimately hinges on how you like your drink — either with a bit of a minty kick to it, or light and easy.

What happens when you muddle mint leaves?

The reason why mint tastes so great to begin with is because of the essential oils it carries, like menthol and menthone. When you add whole leaves to your cocktail, a bit of that oil seeps out, giving it a subtle minty kick. But most of the flavor stays locked within the leaves. Crush them, though, and those oils spill out and provide extra flavor to whatever you add the mashed leaves to. (Try crushing a mint leaf in your hand — you'll notice a strong-smelling liquid coating your palm. That's mint oil!)


Unfortunately, essential oil isn't the only thing that gets released when you muddle the mint. Chlorophyll — the compound responsible for the green color of the leaves — will be released, too. The thing about chlorophyll is that it tastes very bitter and grass-like ... not something that you'd want to have in your refreshing mojito. This is why some mixologists prefer to skip muddling the mint, to prevent their mojitos from tasting bitter.

The best of both worlds

Both sides of the muddling debate have their merits, and really, neither is wrong. In the end, it's all about how you want your cocktail to taste. If you're after an extra punch of herby aroma and minty flavor in your mojito, muddling is the way to go. Just remember to use the right muddler and enough pressure to release the mint oil without turning the leaves into mush and releasing bitter chlorophyll.


On the flip side, for an easy mojito, you can simply add the whole mint leaves to the shaker alongside some white rum. The leaves still impart plenty of essential oil flavor without any risk of bitterness. Plus, by keeping the leaves intact, you can use them as a fresh garnish without worrying about discoloration or bruising. And of course, muddled or not, don't forget to crown the top of your mojito with a fresh sprig of mint as a finishing touch.