How to Stir a Cocktail Like a Pro

Learn professional techniques for bartender-worthy beverages.

 
For many, learning to make cocktails involves realizing that seemingly simple techniques are much more complicated than they seem. Sure, there are all kinds of weird, esoteric skills—like throwing a drink and flaming a garnish—but it’s the basic stuff that tends to cause the biggest headaches.
 
Stirring a cocktail is one such technique. It’s straightforward and used in the making of the majority of all cocktails in existence, but it’s also surprisingly easy to mess up. This guide will clear up any confusion, and help you make the best cocktails possible.

Step 1

The Tools

To properly stir a drink, you’ll need a mixing glass (preferably one designed for cocktails, but any heavy-bottomed mixing glass or pint glass will do in a pinch), a bar spoon, a cocktail strainer (a julep strainer is ideal for stirred drinks, but a Hawthorne strainer works too) and some fresh ice.
 

Advertisement

Step 2

Adding the Ice

The first step involves simply getting all ingredients together in the mixing glass. There’s no “right” way to do this, but we prefer to add the liquids to the glass before the ice. This ensures that the ice doesn’t spend any unnecessary time outside of the freezer, thereby keeping your drink as undiluted as possible.
 
You do run the risk of splashing, so take care not to dump the ice cubes directly into the glass. If you have a scoop, hold it against the inside of the glass and slowly lower the cubes into the liquid. Your julep strainer can serve the same purpose, but if you don’t have either tool just do your best to add the ice gently.
 

Step 3

Proper Stirring Technique

Stirring is the tricky part, and you’ll make better cocktails if you take some time to master the technique. The goal here is to agitate the drink as little as possible; to stir and chill the liquid without smashing the ice to pieces.
 
To do this, slide the spoon into the mixing glass so that the back of the spoon touches the glass. Grip the spoon loosely between the middle and ring fingers of your dominant hand (live-long-and-prosper-style), about three-quarters of the way up the handle. This grip—combined with the spiral texture of the handle—will allow the spoon to rotate.
 
Now you’re ready to get stirring. Keeping your hand mostly stationary and centered above the mixing glass, rotate the spoon around the inside of the mixing glass. Keep the outside of the spoon touching the glass as you bring the ice along with it. The motion should be about 75% fingers and 25% wrist. This is the part that takes some practice, and while the pictures should give you a sense of how it works, there’s always an element of trial and error.
 

Step 4

Straining a Stirred Cocktail

After you’ve stirred the drink for about 20-30 seconds (more if you want it a little weaker), it should be nice and chilled. Next, remove the bar spoon and grab your strainer, placing it on top of the ice at an angle. Hold it in place with your index finger, lift the mixing glass, pour the cocktail into the serving glass, and voila! Time to sit back and enjoy that Negroni.
 

Practice makes perfect, so make like Marley and stir it up. Here are some suggestions to get you started from our friends at Bevvy:
 • Manhattan Recipe: simple, elegant, and overflowing with class
 • Negroni: the bittersweet Italian stallion of adult beverages
 • Sazerac: some might call this taste of New Orleans the world's first cocktail
 

About Bevvy

Bevvy is a community-focused platform that helps people discover incredible new cocktail recipes, keep up with the ever-changing world of craft spirits, and learn what to drink, what to buy, and how to make it.