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Cocktail Making 101: The Stir

Bartender stirring fresh summer alcoholic cocktail in glass

How to Properly Stir a Cocktail

You know how James Bond famously requested his martinis “shaken, not stirred”? Yeah, he was dead wrong.

There is a reason why some cocktails are shaken, and others are stirred. Not only that, but there’s a science to HOW to do those things, too. We’ve already outlined the proper technique for shaking cocktails here. So today we’ll show you how to stir up the perfect cocktail!


Stirred Cocktails.jpg

You don’t need much to make a stirred cocktail. In fact, in a bind, you can do it with items you already have around the house. But if you’re investing in pieces to really up your at-home cocktail game, check out our post on basic home bar tools for recommendations.

To make a great stirred cocktail, you’ll need:

  • Mixing glass (you can use a pint glass for this, in a pinch)

  • Jigger

  • Bar Spoon (any very long-handled spoon does the trick, but we encourage you to invest in a bar spoon for ease of use and best results!)

  • Strainer

  • Ice


Remember that famous James Bond blunder above? Here’s why you wouldn’t really want to shake up that martini. When mixing a cocktail, you always want to incorporate the ingredients as thoroughly but gently as possible. Spirits have complex flavor profiles, and too much vigorous mixing on a delicate, spirit-forward cocktail will just muddle those flavors - instead, we want to enhance them and gently bring them out. Spirits also tend to be soluble with one another, which means it doesn’t take much force to get them to blend together.

There are two main reasons why we stir a cocktail: First, to incorporate the ingredients together (obvs) and chill them. And second, to ever-so-slightly dilute the cocktail. This allows just the right amount of water to be added so that the strength of the alcohol doesn’t overpower the complexities in the flavor profile. In stirred cocktails, you’ll dilute less than in shaken ones, because the ice isn’t being handled as vigorously. This also keeps your cocktail nice and clear when it’s served.

Therefore, we want to stir any cocktail that is made up of spirits only. Examples of this are, of course, the martini (just gin and vermouth), negroni, or manhattan. You also stir any drink that is built directly in the glass it’s served in. If a drink contains juices, eggs or dairy, or syrups, that’s when you’ll need to shake.

Images via  Primer Magazine

Images via Primer Magazine


And now, we stir.

Begin by gathering everything you need for your cocktail so you don’t have to stop in the middle and look for a tool or an ingredient.

  1. Chill your mixing and serving glasses - Fill your serving glasses with ice and set them aside while you finish the drink. Fill your mixing glass with ice and water, take your bar spoon and swirl it around for about a minute or so, then pour out the ice water and dry. (Alternatively, chill your mixing glass in the refrigerator or freezer before you begin)

  2. Pour your cocktail ingredients into your mixing glass. Then place your bar spoon into the mixing glass, and THEN add ice (the order of these steps is important so as not to break the ice when trying to jab your bar spoon into the filled mixing glass).

  3. Take hold of the handle of your bar spoon about 3/4 of the way up, holding it between your ring finger and middle finger and steadying with your thumb as needed.

  4. Hold the back of the spoon against the mixing glass. Then, start gently rotating the spoon, using mostly your fingers to move it rather than your arm or wrist. Keep the spoon against the glass as you swirl to make a vortex of sorts. The ice will rotate in the glass with the movement of your spoon. Your goal is to stir as gently and quietly as possible - silence is golden!

  5. Stir for approximately 30 seconds, as a general rule. The longer you stir, the more diluted your cocktail will become. This could be good or bad, depending on the cocktail and on personal tastes. Generally, higher proof spirits are stirred for a bit longer.

  6. Empty the ice from your cocktail glasses and strain your perfect creation into them (if your cocktail is served on the rocks, replace the ice with fresh cubes). Garnish, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.


We hope this inspires you to perfect your stirring skills! Although it might seem silly to work towards a perfect stir, the craft of making a really perfect cocktail is so worth the time and effort to learn. Soon you may even become bona-fide cocktail geeks, like us!

To find recipes to practice your mixology skills on, check out our ever-expanding recipes section. And, to get a new cocktail recipe and ingredients delivered to your door each month, join our Cocktail Club! We hope to see you there. Salud!

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