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Food

How to Properly Stir a Cocktail

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Mar 24, 2020 • 2 min read

Stirring a cocktail may not seem like it requires much skill, but professional bartenders know that mastering the correct stirring technique can vastly improve the quality of a cocktail.

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Lynnette Marrero & Ryan Chetiyawardana Teach MixologyLynnette Marrero & Ryan Chetiyawardana Teach Mixology

World-class bartenders Lynnette and Ryan (aka Mr Lyan) teach you how to make perfect cocktails at home for any mood or occasion.

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What Types of Cocktails Should Be Stirred?

If you’re unsure whether to stir or shake a cocktail, remember this mixology rule of thumb: If your cocktail consists solely of liquor—including vermouths and liqueurs—then stir it. Liquors all have a similar density, meaning that they can be blended together easily and don’t require shaking. Examples of classic stirred cocktails include the Old Fashioned, the Manhattan, the Negroni, and the Martini.

4 Bartending Tools for Making a Stirred Cocktail

Here are the essential bar tools you'll need to properly stir a cocktail:

  1. Cocktail mixing glass: A mixing or stirring glass (sometimes known as a mixing pitcher or mixing beaker) is the piece of glassware you'll use to stir your cocktail. It has a heavy bottom and a narrow pour spout. If you find yourself without a proper mixing glass, you can use a standard pint glass instead.
  2. Bar spoon: Use a stainless steel bar spoon to stir a cocktail. If you’d like this bar tool to pull double duty, find a bar spoon with a muddler on its top that you can use to mash herbs, fruits, and spices; this will eliminate the need for a separate muddler in your bar set.
  3. Cocktail strainer: There are two types of cocktail strainers: Julep strainers and Hawthorne strainers. Ideally, you’ll use a julep strainer for all stirred drinks because it produces a smoother pour out of a mixing glass. A Hawthorne strainer is used more frequently with cocktail shaker tins, but it can be sufficient for a stirred cocktail if it's all you have.
  4. Fresh ice: Standard ice cubes are acceptable for most stirred cocktails. For drinks that are extra boozy, you may want to consider cracked or crushed ice that melts faster and dilutes the alcohol.
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How to Stir a Cocktail in 5 Steps

Here’s a step-by-step guide to mastering proper stirring technique:

  1. Combine cocktail ingredients. Pour all of your cocktail ingredients into your mixing glass.
  2. Add the ice cubes. Add enough ice to fill at least half the glass. The ice cubes should sit above the top layer of liquid, so if the ice is floating, add more.
  3. Properly grip the bar spoon. Place the spoon between the middle and ring fingers of your dominant hand, about a quarter of the way down from the top of the handle. Tilt your hand sideways into the stirring position and loosely grip the spoon handle using your index finger and thumb.
  4. Stir the cocktail. Place the spoon in the mixing glass, making sure that the back of the spoon touches the glass. Your hand should remain in place above the glass since the motion of the spoon will be driven primarily from your fingers. To stir, use your fingers to guide the spoon around the glass, keeping the back of the spoon touching the wall as it rotates. If done correctly, the ice cubes should all spin together as a cohesive unit. Keep stirring for approximately 30 seconds.
  5. Strain the liquid into serving glass. Remove your bar spoon and place your strainer into the top of your mixing glass. Hold the strainer in place with your index finger and pour the finished cocktail into your serving glass.

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Learn more about mixology from award-winning bartenders. Refine your palate, explore the world of spirits, and shake up the perfect cocktail for your next gathering with the MasterClass All-Access Pass.

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