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Muddling is wonderful and simple way to meld the flavours of cocktail ingredients together. By taking note of just a few simple tips, you'll be muddling your way to your favorite cocktail in no time.

The first step is the muddler itself. Traditionally, a muddler is made from unvarnished wood. It's important not to purchase a varnished muddler, as over time the varnish can wear off (usually into your drinks). More elaborate muddlers are available, and are made from stainless steel with a hard, rubber bottom.

A good muddler should have a long handle, long enough to muddle ingredients without hurting your hands. Make sure it's around 20-30cm long if possible.

The other important point to successfully muddle is the glass you muddle in. The bottom of a stainless steel cocktail shaker is ideal, particularly if it is wider and shorter, rather than thinner and taller. Boston Shakers, which are two-part shakers made up of a mixing glass and stainless steel top, make and ideal muddling glass. If you don't have a shaker, a thick rimmed and bottomed glass will work just as well. Try to avoid using glasses that are too thin and easily chipped.

Once you have your muddler and glass, it's time to muddle. Cocktails such as the Mojito and Mint Julep are the perfect place to start.

For a Mint Julep, sugar is muddled with fresh mint leaves. Place the sugar and mint in the bottom of your muddling glass, which should be placed on a firm, flat surface. Use your muddler to press the mint oils out of the leaves, infusing it with the sugars. Make sure you don't over-muddle the ingredients, as this alters the flavour of the mint.

Mojitos are very simple to make with a muddler. Placing half a lime's worth of lime wedges in the bottom of your muddling glass, add about 8-9 leaves of fresh mint and muddle until all of the juice has been pressed out of the limes. Add the rest of the Mojito ingredients, including white rum, and mix together with a good amount of ice.

You can be as creative as you like with a muddler. Try muddling sugar and lemon wedges for a refreshing cocktail base. The oils of the lemon skin give a wonderful depth of flavour. You could also try orange skin and brown sugar and other aromatic herbs. Cardomon is a wonderful ingredient for some cocktails also, and the flavours are released by cracking open the pods with a muddler before adding them to a simple sugar recipe.

It's easy to see why a muddler is an essential tool for any keen cocktail enthusiast.