How to stir your cocktails properly

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Turns out, there’s a right way to stir your cocktail, and once you master it, you’ll wonder how you had gotten it so wrong!

You never stir a cocktail just for the hell of it. Your drink is only ever stirred gently, with a proper bar spoon, when there is ice in it. The stirring helps to slowly dissolve the ice so that it can become part of the cocktail, while carefully combining the other ingredients without ruining the flavours.

There are two other rules:

  • The cocktail should contain distilled spirits.
  • The cocktail should be created in the glass part of a cocktail shaker.

How to do it right

As with everything in cocktail making, patience is key. Stir slowly and smoothly, so that the liquid inside stays level and nothing splashes outside of the glass. 

Then, start with a chilled glass and a chilled bar spoon. Keep them in the fridge or pop them in the freezer a few minutes before you start preparing your drink. 

Add your cocktail ingredients and then fill the glass 2/3 of the way with ice. 

Then, take your spoon and hold it gently between your thumb and your first two fingers. You can use the back two fingers for stability. The spoon goes into the glass so that the back of it touches the glass and the front touches the ice. The correct technique means only your fingers will move as the spoon gently moves around the outside of the glass, carefully bumping the ice. 

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The whole process will take between 30 seconds and one minute. Any more and you’ll over-dilute the drink. Any less and you won’t dilute it enough. 

If you’ve got it right, your drink is ready to be strained into a well-chilled glass. 

More key tips

It should go without saying, but always use clean ice – the recipient of the cocktail will be drinking it! You should also use standard-sized ice cubes. Smaller cubes melt faster, requiring less stirring. Larger cubes will obviously be the opposite. And make sure to use fresh ice in the final drink – strain out any chunks left in the stirring process. 

You can use any kind of strainer for stirred drinks, but a Julep strainer is slightly better as it creates a cleaner cocktail. 

Finally, a teaspoon is not a suitable replacement for a bar spoon. If you don’t have one, add one to your cocktail tools now! 

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Bartender's top tip

Creating your own syrups and infusions can dramatically elevate your cocktails. Homemade simple syrup is just the start; you can infuse it with flavors like vanilla, herbs, spices, or even chili to add a unique twist to your drinks. Infusing spirits with fruits, herbs, or spices can also create personalized and complex flavors that you can’t buy off the shelf.

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