When you think about muddlers, what do you need, really?
A big stick with a flat bottom that you can use to crush stuff in your glass and make a tasty cocktail.
Muddlers are helpful for smashing up fruit for a daiquiri, limes for a caipirinha, or to muddle sugar cubes with bitters for an old fashioned. You might also use it to “bruise” mint for things like the mint julep or the mojito.
Recently, the folks at Arctic Chill sent me a sample of their new muddler to try out.
Full disclosure, I was prepared not to like it. Up until this point, I’ve kept it pretty old-school in the muddler department: the only muddler I own is a hand-me-down from my grandfather (pictured here). It’s basically a miniature wooden baseball bat with a flat bottom.*
So I was skeptical about Arctic Chill’s sleek design, which features a shiny stainless steel body and grooved nylon head.
Arctic Chill Muddler vs. Limes
One thing I noticed immediately is that the Arctic Chill has a nice weight to it. The body is well balanced, and easy to handle. And while I expected to not feel as “friendly” as an old wooden muddler, I was pleasantly surprised how comfortable it was to use.
The Arctic Chill easily helped extract the lime juice and seemed to do a good job of releasing all those precious citrus oils from the rind.
Another thing I noticed is that the nylon head felt substantial, not plasticy; it’s strong enough to handle mashing up fruit or extracting the oils from citrus rinds, but it’s delicate enough that it doesn’t hurt the glass.
Arctic Chill Muddler vs. Mint
I had a feeling that with the toothed head, the Arctic Chill would be great for mashing soft fruits and for muddling citrus. But I expected it might have trouble bruising mint leaves.
With mint and other delicate herbs, the last thing you want to do is muddle them with the “wham-bam-thank-you-mam” approach that you use for citrus or other fruits. Instead, you want to press and turn, gently bruising the veins in the leaf to extract the oils, while being careful not to overly grind the stems or tear the leaves. Otherwise you’ll add bitterness, and you’ll have annoying little pieces of leaves in your drink.
You expect that a toothed muddler would be disastrous for such a gentle task. But I wanted to give it a try.
Once again, I was pleasantly surprised. I expected the toothed head to eviscerate the mint leaves. But it didn’t. The mint held together. Perhaps it’s because of how shallow the pyramid-like teeth are on the head of the muddler.
It still punctured the mint a bit more than a flat-bottomed muddler would, so I’d have to run some more tests before I’m convinced the toothed head is delicate enough for herbs. For now, I’d still probably recommend having a smooth wooden muddler on hand as well, just to ensure that you can be as delicate as possible when bruising herbs.
Wait…What about the Name?
One final thing: when I first heard the name “Arctic Chill,” I wondered, does this muddler get super cold and help freeze your drink or something?
Fortunately that is not the case. Because honestly, I don’t want my muddlers to chill—just muddle, thank you very much. So, even though the name is funny, the Arctic Chill does what it’s supposed to. No more, no less.
Overall, I think the Arctic Chill is a solid muddler: it looks good, feels good, works well, and appears to be a high-quality product. And for a toothed head muddler, it is gentler than I expected. For $13.95 and with a lifetime guarantee, I think it’s a good investment.
*One thing to note about varnished wooden muddlers like this: over time, theoretically you’re rubbing small bits of varnish into your drink. So if you do get a wooden muddler as well, get one that’s unvarnished. I just hold onto mine because it has sentimental value…And because I believe ingesting varnish gives me magical super powers.