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April 28, 2009
as
Smooth Operators

A good blender can turn almost any mischievous mixture into a delicious treat. We put four to the test in search of the best.

A good blender can turn almost any mischievous mixture into a delicious treat. Bartender Duggan McDonnell puts four to the test in search of the best.
A good blender can turn almost any mischievous mixture into a delicious treat. Bartender Duggan McDonnell puts four to the test in search of the best.
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A good blender can turn almost any mischievous mixture into a delicious treat. Bartender Duggan McDonnell puts four to the test in search of the best.
A good blender can turn almost any mischievous mixture into a delicious treat. Bartender Duggan McDonnell puts four to the test in search of the best. Photo by Robert Schlatter.

In times of great social strife, it’s refreshing to stumble across something that everyone can agree on, even if that something is the extraction of one’s wisdom teeth. It goes without argument in all quarters of the world that evicting the offending molars from one’s heavily sedated mouth just plain sucks.

Having recently experienced the procedure, it was a pleasant surprise to return to the office and receive the assignment to review those high-wattage, sharp-bladed workhorses of the kitchen—blenders. You see, as anyone who has had their wisdom teeth pulled knows, for approximately a week after the procedure, you are relegated to strictly soft food. That means that the blender quickly becomes your new best friend.

The kitchen blender has been around since 1922, when an industrious gentleman named Stephen Poplawski from Racine, Wisconsin, attached a spinning blade to the bottom of a glass container and plopped a top on it to help him make soda fountain drinks. A lot has changed in the last century, and many blenders are now banging on the food processor’s door, crushing ice, fruits, and vegetables in addition to making shakes. So, wanting to advance our knowledge of the blender and its more recent aesthetic and technological developments, we enlisted the help of someone intimately familiar with the workings of this small yet indispensable kitchen appliance: a bartender.

Duggan McDonnell, 31, began helping quench people’s thirsts by distributing wine before moving behind the bar at Wild Ginger, an Asian-fusion restaurant in Seattle, where he first learned to love the blender. “Not only was the food terrific at the restaurant,” McDonnell explains, “but we made incredible mango daiquiris, which were our signature drink. We had one blender and we would burn through them constantly. The blades would literally spin off because we were making something like 200 daiquiris a night.”

Most users aren’t planning on making 200 daiquiris a night, but we still wanted to put an assortment of blenders to the test. We bought all manner of vegetables, yogurt, juice, coffee beans, fruit, and, of course, that versatile mixer, rum, to see what we could whip up.
 

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