Blender vs. Mixer, finalé

Posted by TraderTiki on January 28th, 2008 — Posted in Tools

A long, and unfortunately pictureless weekend has passed. Many drinks were made, cocktails concocted, and such.

After this experimentation, I’ve come to the following conclusion regarding the functional differences between the Top-Down Mixer, and the Glass Bottom-Blender.

The Top-Down Mixer has some great advantages. From a non-mixological standpoint, it draws a lower wattage (cheaper to run), is quieter, simpler to clean, and, for my sense of aesthetic, just looks classy. A metal shaker can be used to blend, as opposed to the device-specific pitcher used for the blender, which means less equipment. Using a metal shaker as well allows the bartender to, just as when shaking, use the temperature of the shaker on the hand to indicate when the drink is sufficiently chilled, and offers a bit of a speed of service advantage in using a lidless device that doesn’t have to align with the base.
From a mixology perspective, the blender is advantageous in that the aeration of the drink is superior, leading to a large frothy head on the drink, and, if using a thickened syrup or other texture addition, can get more air trapped in the drink for a creamier texture. As well, since there are no cutting blades, smaller bits of crushed ice will dilute with the energy put into blending, but the larger chunks will not be cut and melted, leading to a bit less dilution in the initial pour of the drink.

There are as well some distinct disadvantages. The Primary being, no blended drinks! Yes, Don the Beachcomber (or at least a few of his  later establishments) would have had a blender behind the bar. Not in the original Beachcomber (which opened in 1934, and the bottom-blender as we know it wasn’t patented or produced until the late 1930s… read more at cocktaildb), but certainly he had a few drinks on the menu that required a blender, such as the Missionary’s Downfall.

The two devices meet on an even level as far as temperature goes, and both are able to aerate the drink (though, advantage mixer).

The blender has some distinct advantages as well, primarily being… well, blended drinks! Can’t make a Cocoanaut or Chi-Chi without one! Secondly, good consumer and professional models are more readily available, and in many, many different models, shapes, sizes and colors. There is a bit of a resurgence in top-down blenders as “retroware“, but the 70-watt motors just don’t kick as well as the old models, and there are only a handful of top-down blenders being manufactured now.

A quick rerun of the blender’s disadvantages though, are more power-usage (with the model I use, at least), easier to over-dilute, specialized container, more parts to clean.

Overall, I would conclude after a good week’s experiments (and what a week!), and some input from those in the know, that for tropical drinks, unless desperate for new hardware and a nice foam, you’ll do just fine with a 3-5 second blend in a good, powerful blender, such as the Oster Classic Beehive Blender. The mixer is more of an option than a necessity.

I’m still open for opinions, input, and experiment ideas.

Sven Kirsten, author of The Book Of Tiki and Tiki Modern, offers these snippets from the Mikes at the Tiki-Ti, a place started many years ago by a bartender at Don the Beachcomber’s… read Ray Buhen’s story at the Bum’s Grog Blog.

From Tiki Central:

Mike Sr.: “The blenders are stronger and make the ice too slushy, the mixers are more gentle and give the ice the perfect consistency” (he conceded that that might be a function of the TIME spent blending) and “We would not get the same frothy texture that our drinks always had”

Mike Jr. agreed and added to that: “Top mixers are the best way for OUR style of cocktails. I guess it is a matter of preference”

As [Sven] thought, the reasons for the Bum not insisting on the top mixer were complex, one being that he felt it was too much to ask to get the old ones, he feels the new remakes are too flimsy. The PROS are that it aerates the cocktail more, and makes it frothier. But then he shared his observation that at any of the Trader Vic’s he had been to, including the Beverly Hills one, he had only seen BLENDERS being used. -And those cocktails were some of the best I ever had! So it seems that it is part of the mixologist’s personal style. Tony Ramos of Don The Beachcomber and Madame Wu’s only used Hamilton Beach mixers.

Thanks Sven and Beachbum Berry for chiming in on this!

If you liked that post, then try these...

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Blender vs. Mixer, part deux
In these two challenges, a few wrenches are thrown into the works.


Comment by Martin

Trader Vic’s Emeryville & SF use(d) Hamilton Mixers.

Posted on January 29, 2008 at 9:16 am

Comment by TraderTiki

Martin, that is great information.

What about Forbidden Island ?

Posted on January 29, 2008 at 9:24 am

Comment by Martin

We have both.

I have to admit surprise at all of this stuff on TC. Blenders for frozen. Mixers for the rest. Occasionally a drink requires a blender for non frozen items. The Boo Loo has to be made in a blender to puree pineapple chunks.

But otherwise, this is pretty cut and dry. Trader Vic’s/Don’s/Mai Kai/Tiki Ti- everywhere. Mixers.

BB mentions blenders because he rightly assumes that most don’t have mixers at home and a close enough approximation can be had with the blender.

Doing these right in a commercial establishment means mixers. Period. And people expect frozen drinks, which means blenders.

If you don’t have both at home, you can get by with just the blender. If a tiki bar is worth a shit, drink-wise, they will have a mixer.

Posted on January 30, 2008 at 9:33 am

Comment by Martin

By the way: You only sat behind a mixer for six hours last month- did you not see it? :)

Posted on January 30, 2008 at 9:34 am

Comment by TraderTiki

I had my rum goggles on, and some horribly distracting handsome bartender, his lovely wife, and various Ohana for fine conversation. Plus it just wasn’t something I’d considered yet… still learning!

I’m glad my bar can now (on a technical level) be considered worth a shit. :)

Posted on January 30, 2008 at 9:48 am

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