What Does Bruising Mean in Bartending?

  • By: BT Staff
  • Date: April 28, 2024
  • Time to read: 9 min.
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Bruised or not bruised, that is the question in the world of bartending. But what exactly does bruising mean, and how does it impact your cocktail taste? Let’s dive into the world of mixology and find out the ins and outs of bruising in bartending.

What Is Bruising When It Comes To Bartending?

Bruising in bartending refers to unintentionally crushing or breaking the ingredients in a cocktail, often through improper mixing techniques like muddling, shaking, or stirring. This can change the flavour, colour, and consistency of the drink. The goal of bartending is to incorporate the ingredients without bruising them, but in some cases, intentional bruising can be used for specific cocktails or personal preferences.

Bruising in Bartending Explained

Bruising in bartending can occur during the mixing process, such as muddling, shaking, or stirring. When the ingredients are not handled properly, they can be crushed or broken, releasing their natural juices and altering the drink’s overall taste and appearance. This is why bartenders must understand how to handle ingredients properly to avoid bruising. In some cases, intentional bruising can be used for specific cocktails or personal preferences, but generally, the goal is to incorporate the ingredients without bruising them.

What Causes Brushing in Drinks?

There are three ways bruising happens while preparing a drink:

  • Muddling: Muddling is the process of crushing or grinding ingredients with a muddler, a bartender’s tool used to extract the flavours and juices from fruits, herbs, and spices. Improper muddling techniques can result in bruising, as the ingredients can be over-crushed and their natural juices released, altering the drink’s flavour and consistency.
  • Shaking: Shaking is mixing ingredients with ice to chill, dilute, and aerate the drink. Bruising can occur if the ingredients are not properly sealed in the shaker or if the shaker is shaken too vigorously, causing the ingredients to break and release their natural juices.
  • Stirring: Stirring is mixing ingredients without ice to incorporate them properly. Bruising can occur if the ingredients are not stirred gently, causing them to break and release their natural juices, altering the drink’s flavour and consistency.

It is important for bartenders to understand these techniques and how to handle the ingredients properly to avoid bruising, which can negatively impact the final product.

Effects of Bruising on Cocktails

  • Change in Flavor: Bruising can cause a change in flavour because it releases the natural juices and flavours of the ingredients, which can make the drink taste differently than intended. This can result in an overpowering or bitter taste, which can compromise the balance and overall taste of the cocktail.
  • Change in Color: Bruising can also cause a change in colour because it releases the natural pigments of the ingredients, which can alter the drink’s appearance. This can result in a darker or discoloured appearance, which can detract from the visual appeal of the cocktail.
  • Change in Consistency: Bruising can cause a change in consistency because it breaks down the ingredients and releases their natural juices, which can alter the drink’s texture. This can result in a thicker or thinner texture, impacting the drink’s overall mouthfeel and drinking experience.

By understanding how bruising can impact a cocktail’s flavour, colour, and consistency, bartenders can avoid it and create the best possible drink for their customers.

How Do You Avoid Bruising Your Cocktail?

When muddling, shaking and string, it’s important to use your tools properly. Here are some tips on the proper techniques to avoid bruising when making drinks:

Wooden Cocktail Muddler Drinks Muddler Bar Muddler and 12 Inches Spiral Mixing Spoon Stainless Steel Shaker Spiral Spoon for Making Cocktails Drinks Juice (Brown)


  • Choose the right muddler: Moddlers come in wood, silicone and plastic. Many bartenders prefer wood because it’s a gentle material to avoid damaging the ingredients.
  • Be gentle: Apply gentle pressure to the ingredients, using a twisting motion to extract their flavours and juices without bruising them.
  • Don’t overfill: Muddle only a few ingredients simultaneously to avoid over-crushing them.


  • Use the right shaker: Use a shaker with a tight-fitting lid to avoid spilling or bruising the ingredients.
  • Add the ingredients: Fill the shaker with the ingredients and ice.
  • Shake with care: Hold the shaker with both hands and shake gently, avoiding excessive or rough shaking that can cause bruising.

The two main types of shakers used are the Boston and Cobbler shakers.


  • Use the right utensil: Use a long, thin stirring spoon to avoid bruising the ingredients.
  • Stir gently: Stir the ingredients slowly and gently, avoiding excessive movement that can cause bruising.
  • Limit the number of ingredients: Stir only a few ingredients simultaneously to avoid over-stirring and bruising the ingredients.

By following these proper techniques, bartenders can avoid bruising the ingredients and create the best possible drink for their customers.

When is Bruising Acceptable in Bartending?

Bruising in bartending is generally considered acceptable in specific cocktails where it is an intentional part of the recipe. For example:

  • Mojitos: Muddling is a key part of making a mojito, as it helps to release the flavours and juices of the mint leaves, sugar, and lime. So you want to crush them slightly but not pulverise them!
  • Caipirinhas: The traditional way to make a caipirinha involves muddling the lime and sugar to release their flavours and juices.
  • Old Fashioned: Stirring is an important part of making an Old Fashioned, as it helps to incorporate the ingredients and create the desired balance of flavours.

In these cases, bruising is a necessary and intentional part of the mixing process that contributes to the unique taste and character of the cocktail.

Also, bruising in bartending can be acceptable for personal preferences and customer requests.

It is important to note that excessive or improper bruising can negatively impact the final product, so bartenders should always consider the type and extent of bruising based on the specific cocktail, personal preferences, and customer requests.

Bruising Questions and Answers

You’ll hear the term “bruising” a lot in bartending, meaning different things. Here are some answers to common questions.

What Does the Term Bruising Mean in Cocktails?

Bruising in cocktails is the act of crushing or muddling ingredients, such as fruits, herbs, or spices, to release their flavours and juices. The process of bruising can alter the drink’s taste, appearance, and texture.

It is a common technique used by bartenders to add unique flavours to cocktails. However, excessive or improper bruising can negatively impact the final drink, so bartenders need to properly understand how to use this technique effectively.

What Does Bruising Whiskey Mean?

Bruising whiskey is the act of shaking or stirring whiskey in a manner that agitates it excessively, causing the whiskey to become cloudy and change in taste.

This is generally considered to negatively impact the quality of the whiskey and is typically avoided by bartenders and whiskey enthusiasts.

Whiskey is typically served neat or on the rocks, with gentle stirring or swirling used to release its aroma and flavours. Bruising can cause the whiskey to become cloudy and alter its flavour profile, detracting from its intended taste.

What Happens When You Bruise Liquor?

When liquor is bruised, it means that it has been agitated in a manner that causes the molecules in the liquor to become disturbed. This can lead to several effects, including a change in appearance, as the liquor becomes cloudy or hazy. The flavour profile can also be altered, as the bruising can release unwanted flavours or essences from the liquor, leading to a less desirable taste.

Additionally, bruising can cause the liquor to become more bitter or harsh, as the agitation causes the release of more intense flavours. These changes are generally considered to impact the liquor quality negatively and are typically avoided by bartenders and liquor enthusiasts.

Why Don’t You Shake Dark Liquor?

Dark liquors, such as whiskey, rum, and brandy, are not typically shaken for several reasons:

  • Cloudiness: Shaking can lead to cloudiness in the liquor, which is considered an aesthetic defect.
  • Unwanted flavours: The shaking process can cause the release of unwanted flavours or essences from the liquor, altering its intended taste.
  • Muddled flavours: Dark liquors are often enjoyed for their complex and nuanced flavours, and excessive shaking can cause these flavours to become muddled or muted.

For these reasons, bartenders typically avoid shaking dark liquors and instead stir or swirl the liquor gently to release its aroma and flavours. By doing so, they can ensure that the liquor maintains its intended appearance and flavour profile, delivering the best possible drinking experience to their customers.

What Does Dirty Vodka Mean?

“Dirty vodka” typically refers to a vodka cocktail with a small amount of olive juice or brine. These can alter the flavour profile of the vodka, creating a unique taste.

The term “dirty” refers to the cloudy appearance of the drink caused by the addition of olive juice. Dirty vodka can refer to any type of vodka cocktail that includes ingredients that change the appearance or texture of the drink, such as Worcestershire sauce, pickle juice, or other seasonings.

What Are the Different Types of Cocktail Shaking?

There are many different types of cocktail-shaking techniques used in bartending. Here are six of them, starting with the most common ones: wet and dry shaking.

  • Wet shaking: This is the most common shaking method. The ice and the ingredients are all put into the shaker together, so the shaking chills and dilutes the ingredients. Wet shaking is typically used for cocktails that are meant to be served cold, such as martinis or Margaritas.
  • Dry shaking: This technique involves shaking the ingredients without ice to create a frothy texture. This is typically used in cocktails that require a thicker, creamier texture, such as pina coladas or eggnog.
  • Hard shaking: Invented by Japanese bartender Kazuo Uyeda, his method is claimed to yield better aeration, temperature and texture in cocktails. It’s a 3-point shake using a cobbler shaker that moves the ice around the entire shaker.
  • Roll shaking: This technique involves shaking the ingredients back and forth between two shakers to mix and chill the drink.
  • Flash shaking: This fast, aggressive shaking technique is used to chill and mix the ingredients quickly.
  • Julep shaking: This is a specific technique used to make julep cocktails, where the ingredients are gently shaken or muddled to release the flavours without creating too much dilution.

Each technique has its unique impact on the texture, appearance, and flavour of the cocktail, and bartenders will choose the best technique for each drink based on its desired outcome.

What Does Bruising Wine Mean?

Not to be confused with decanting, “bruising wine” refers to agitating wine, either by swirling it in a glass or shaking it in a shaker, to release its aromas and flavours. Bruising wine is not recommended as it can release bitter tannins and other undesirable flavours and cause the wine to become too aerated.

Instead, swirling wine in a glass is a more gentle form of bruising that can help release its aromas.

Also, instead, let the wine breathe by allowing it to sit for a few minutes after opening or by decanting it. This allows the wine to open up and release its flavours more naturally and desirably.

Why Does Alcohol Cause Bruising?

Alcohol by itself doesn’t cause bruising. But alcohol is a vasodilator, meaning that it widens blood vessels, which can cause blood to pool and increase the pressure within the vessels, leading to damage and bleeding. This can result in bruising more easily, especially with even minor bumps.

Alcohol also impairs motor skills and coordination, increasing the risk of accidents, meaning more bruises.


In conclusion, bruising is an important aspect of bartending that can impact a cocktail’s flavour, colour, and consistency. Understanding how to properly muddle, shake, and stir ingredients and when and why to use bruising can help bartenders create the best possible drink for their customers.

While bruising is acceptable in specific cocktails, personal preferences, and customer requests, it is important to use proper techniques to avoid over-bruising and compromising the final product.

By mastering the art of bruising, bartenders can take their cocktail-making skills to the next level and create delicious, visually appealing drinks that satisfy their customers’ taste buds.

Interested in more bar terminology? We have a full article on bartending lingo here.