I was having this conversation with a writer about my new book on cocktail technique last week, and she got on the subject of bar tools. “A lot of this stuff is really expensive,” she said, “Do you have any advice for home cocktail enthusiasts who don’t want to spend a ton of money?”
And I was thinking, you know, like – she’s right. Bar tools are super expensive, and there are some places where you can skimp, and some places where you can’t. Like, you just won’t find a substitute for a good 18/8 stainless steel cocktail shaker. A cheap one from the liquor store just isn’t going to do the job.
But there are other areas where you can have great bar tools for not a ton of money. Like, my first piece of advice when I’m posed this question is to use a plastic chopstick from a Chinese restaurant instead of an expensive bar spoon. They’re actually easier to use, and they cost very little (free, if you just steal one). Sure, they’re not very stylish, but they’ll do the job every bit as well as a $30 bar spoon.
But then I remembered my favorite muddler – the one I made myself. See, there are all sorts of wonderful muddlers made of exotic African hardwood out there that will set you back $40 if you want to go that route. But the best, easiest to use, most stylish wooden muddler in my bar bag cost me all of $5, which is about as cheap as those pieces of shit they sell next to the register at pretty much every liquor store in the world. And that, my friends, is my ten inch, maple, French rolling pin muddler.
This couldn’t be easier to do, seriously. Get yourself an inexpensive 20 inch French rolling pin. The kind with the tapered ends.
Measure halfway, ten inches from one side.
Then, simply cut it in half (ask an adult for help with this, kids).
Lightly sand both cut ends until smooth, and then finish with food grade mineral oil. You’ve just spent $11.26 on two muddlers that will last you years, and you can split the cost with a friend if you’re extra broke.
You’ve got a narrow end for lightly muddling herbs, and a wide end for mashing the heck out of some limes for a tasty Caipirinha.
There you go, cheapskates! The good news is that you can allay some of your shame with the knowledge that this is seriously one of the best muddlers you’ll ever use. Enjoy.
27 Replies to “Build a Better ($5.63) Muddler”
I am so happy brother found this space!☺ Jeffrey, such an innovative and ingenious solution. Hubs is a Carpenter so he can tend to be the cutting, sanding and oiling. I’m on my way somewhere online to find a couple of French rolling pins!
Thanks a bunch! I’ll be buying your books as well and pass the message along because Cocktails & Bar Carts are coming b back in style!
Cheerful everyone here as well.😊
Well spoken! Bar gear is waaaay to expensive.
I would definitely spend the most on a quality tin tin shaker. The rest you can find great alternatives.
Just a heads up, but you can get “food grade” mineral oil in the pharmacy section of a grocery store, sold as a laxative (intestinal lubricant). Exact same stuff for about $2-5. Don’t let the laxative scare you, food grade mineral oil would give you the shits too if you take a couple tablespoons.
Justin – That is some very good and seriously bizarre advice. Thanks, I think.
John, Sean, my current mixing glass is the replacement (glass container) to a French press coffee maker!!
A little thinner then the fancy ones, $10.00 !!!!
Now to convince Martini and Rossi to steal Carpano Anticas recipe. now there would be some savings!!!!!
This muddler is well made. And you know what I do not have to worry about harsh chemicals of treated muddlers in my drinks. Feel a relief to know that. Also its far better when it comes to handling as well. Thanks mate!
That’s a great idea! I’d been having the same struggle. I mean, $60 for a mixing glass is ridiculous.
Great idea! My favorite cost-cutting innovation for bar gear came when I was looking into buying one of those fancy Yarai mixing glasses. I thought they seemed a little expensive, so I bought a 600 mL Pyrex beaker for about $11 instead.
Hilarious! Someone else has the same idea!
Everyone laughs when I pull out my giant rolling pin to muddle cocktails. Yes, I actually use the entire full-size rolling pin and have been for years.
Heck, when I’m done, I can roll out pizza dough with it, too.
YES! So stoked this came to fruition. I was just saying the other day while muddling blueberries (and getting half of them stuck in its grooves): “I wish Jeffrey would post that rolling pin tutorial already…”
Kidding! But seriously, thanks for this!
Awesome post once again, Jeffrey! I did the same thing but cut it “on the bias” to give it the ergo-grip. I’m currently looking for denser hardwood scraps to repurpose another muddler. Thanks!
On the question of how often to treat kitchen wood with food-safe mineral oil, the old rule of thumb (starting with untreated wood) is every day for a week, every week for a month, and every month for a year. By then the wood will be saturated and protected from moisture. After that, treat as needed if it starts to look dry.
Thanks, James! That is very helpful.
I laughed at the chopstick, because that’s what I use at home.
For a muddler, I use the handle end of a knife joining steel. Probably not food grade though.
Thanks for the tip! I added on a Lewis bag and a copy of your book for good measure.
Thx. My wife’s an obsessive baker and has old tapered wood pins. I have lots of mineral oil for my own cooking projects as well as hers. You’ve helped us both get rid of (well, find new uses for) old stuff we just can’t throw out. Also, your book’s description of how some Japanese bartenders stir is spot on – my hands don’t get tired, and I don’t make as much noise. Again thanks. And the book works well in Kindle format – pictures and all.
Do you not like plastic muddlers? I bought what I think is a very serviceable one for <10 on amazon.
Drago – I love food grade plastic muddlers, but I have a hard time finding them in a size that isn’t overkill. This one is the perfect size and shape.
NOW you tell us!
Nice one Jeff. That’s a great idea.
How often do you have to go back re-treat these muddlers with the mineral oil? (Of course, another question would be, how often does ANYONE treat their muddlers with mineral oil at all.)
Ron – I just tend to do it whenever I notice it’s losing it’s shine. But it should probably be done on a much more regular basis to maximize the lifespan of the wood.
What a brilliant and elegant solution! Yay IARC furniture studio! This would make Lyman smile. oxox jayne
Jayne – Aw, thank you. That means a lot.
Brian May built his own guitar, you built your own muddler, I think that’s kinda rock and roll.
That looks like a fun and also feasible project, but it raises the question: which 18/8 stainless cocktail shaker do you prefer? Enquiring mixologists-in-training want to know!
Simon – I’m a fan of the shakers available from Cocktail Kingdom.