Creating The Perfect Stir

Pull out your bar spoon and get your mixing glass chilled, it’s time to create a stir behind the bar.

By: Tiff Christie|August 5,2021

Now you might think stirring a drink would be the easiest thing in the world, but as with all things cocktail, there are a few tricks that are worth keeping in mind.

Unlike stirring your coffee, there is a proper technique to stirring a cocktail, and it all comes down to why you are doing it, when you are doing it and the accessories you need to do it.

Why You Want To Stir

Basically, there are three reasons that you stir a cocktail. The most obvious one is to blend the ingredients, but also, the act of stirring chills the drink, while also adding the correct amount of dilution.

Generally, stirring has one basic goal in mind, and that is to blend the ingredients. When making a cocktail, there are the added reasons of temperature and dilution.

We often forget that water is the necessary but unsung hero of a perfectly formed cocktail. Stirring works well to control the level of dilution in a drink, while also maintaining its clarity.

When You Want To Stir


If you think all cocktails should come from a shaker, then Ian Fleming really does have a lot to answer for.

Generally, a drink is only shaken if you are looking to add texture, aeration and the ability to bind the ingredients.

Alternatively, if a drink is heavily spirited or booze-forward, then you always stir. Drinks like a Martini, a Manhattan, or an Old-Fashioned, where you are after a silky mouthfeel, precise dilution and perfect clarity, are all stirred drinks.

Perhaps the easiest way to think about it is ‘Shake for citrus, stir for spirits’.

What You’ll Need To Stir

Aside from the alcohol and some decent ice, stirring requires a vessel in which to mix, as well as a spoon with which to do the stirring.

Bar spoons typically have (as the implies) a spoon at one end that is used to stir but also as a tool to measure out ingredients. a shallow dish spoon at one end, to help mix but, more importantly, they have a long slender stem. This is important as you want the spoon to reach down to the base of the mixing glass, while you hold the top of the spoon above the lip of the glass.

The end of a barspoon typically comes with either a flat end, a fork or a teardrop. occasionally you can even find a barspoon with a small muddler on the end. Which one you choose is can be flat, forkend, a folk end or a teardrop or even a muddler is really up to you.

A mixing glass can really be any vessel. In a pinch, a Boston Glass or even the metal base of a shaker will do the job. Ideally, though, a standard mixing glass with enough room and a wide mouth, just makes things easier.

How To Stir

Stirring takes a certain amount of finesse. The aim is to move the spoon around the inside wall of the mixing glass, to gently push the ice through the ingredients without actually fracturing it. You really don’t want fragments of ice floating in your otherwise perfectly formed Manhattan.

As any good bartender will tell you, you know you are doing it right when you can’t hear the ice moving around. So really, it should swirl, not be jostled. Generally, you want to stir for about 30-45 seconds, at which point you should have a properly diluted, well-mixed cocktail that is clear, cold and ready to be poured.

So, Ready To ‘Stir With Ice And Strain’?

  1. Always chill both your mixing glass and the glass in which you will serve the drink. The easiest way is to put them in the freezer for a few minutes, but the other completely respectable choice is to fill both with ice and a little water.
  2. When you are ready to stir, dump the ice water and add your measured ingredients. Then fill the mixing glass two-thirds with fresh ice. Adding less ice will not better control the dilution.
  3. Take your spoon between your thumb and the first two fingers of your dominant hand. The shaft of the spoon should be between your index and middle finger. Slide the spoon down the inside edge of the glass until it almost touches the base.
  4. Keeping your arm and, to an extent, your wrist still, use your fingers to move the spoon. If you think of the glass as a clock, then you use your index finger to pull the spoon toward you (from the twelve o’clock position to the six o’clock) and your middle finger to push it away. The spoon will spin about in your fingers on its own axis, and the ice and liquid will move about the glass.
  5. Stir for about 30-45 seconds.
  6. Dump ice water, if using, from the serving glass, then strain stirred cocktail into the serving glass and garnish as required.

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Creating The Perfect Stir

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