Nowadays, we see cocktails being made by shaking them. Next to this, another crucial technique every bartender must know and learn is stirring. It may sound simple because you stir your morning coffee or afternoon tea everyday, but unfortunately, stirring cocktails is a whole different level, in other words, it requires technique and skill to achieve the perfect cocktail every time.
In bartending, a specific tool is used to stir cocktails. It is not an ordinary spoon that is regular in height and has a big head. Rather, it is longer, often with spiral handles, has a smaller head and varying ends. Moreover, in stirring cocktails, you would need a vessel, where the ingredients are combined and ready to be mixed. The most common used vessel for stirring is the Japanese mixing glass. There are also metal counterparts of the mixing glass. The most readily available mixing glass you can use is the pint glass from your cocktail shaker. No matter what you use, what’s important is that the vessel is wide enough so that the stirrer can freely move around smoothly.
Stirring cocktails take a longer time to finish than shaking them. The purpose of shaking is to mix the ingredients by way of aeration while making the drink cold. This method will add texture to the finished product. In contrast, stirring cocktails allow the retention of the liquors' clarity and consistency because the method of incorporating ingredients is not as harsh. If you want to learn this classic bartending technique, this article is for you.
Stirring Cocktails: Step by Step Process
Stirring requires precision, from the way one handles the stirrer to the kind of tools used. Your goal is to incorporate the spirits well and simultaneously chilling the drink to create a clear and wonderful cocktail. If you follow the correct steps below on how to stir cocktails, you will undoubtedly perfect this technique in no time.
- Grab your mixing glass or pint glass and fill it with ice cubes two-thirds of the glass or filling it all the way.
- Measure your spirits and pour them into the mixing glass.
- Take your stirrer or spoon and insert it by the wall of the mixing glass.
- To have the right grip on your spoon, hold the handle, about two inches below the end and hold it with your index finger and thumb. Then, have your middle finger join the index finger in gripping the handle. The handle should be in between the middle finger and the ring finger.
- Start stirring gently by pushing the spoon with the ring finger and pinky finger duo, then pulling it back with the index and middle finger duo.
- The back of the spoon should always be against the surface of the glass, like a magnet. Stir a bit faster for about 20 - 30 seconds until the drink gets cold and the proper dilution is attained.
- Once done, carefully take out the spoon from the mixing glass. Place a Julep strainer or Hawthorne strainer on top of the mixing or pint glass and strain the drink into the serving glass.
Tips and Tricks:
- Pre-chilling the mixing glass. Chilling your mixing glass before stirring can make the chilling process quicker and will prevent any unnecessary dilution. You can do this by putting it in the freezer for about five minutes then taking it out. Another way to do it is by filling it with ice and water and letting it sit for five minutes then you can dispose the ice water. You can also do this to the serving glass.
- Use big ice cubes. Use ice cubes that are big and firm so that they will not chip or crack when the spoon is inserted and the stirring commences. Big ice cubes also give you more control of the dilution.
- Use your dominant hand. When stirring, it is important to use your dominant hand so you will have more control and you will have a better grip.
- Glasses give you visuals. Using a mixing glass, a pint glass or any other mixing vessel that is clear allows you to see the stirring process and lets you observe where you can improve and helps you get your timing right.
- It’s the fingers, not the wrist. Let your fingers do the pushing and pulling of the bar spoon and your wrist will just go with the flow. If the wrist will also apply force, your movement may be a little bit more aggressive than it needs to be and may risk cracking the ice cubes.
- Hold the base of the glass. To keep the glass in place, you can hold it by the base which is usually thickened and elevated. If you hold it by the body, your hand may make the drink warm which really goes against the purpose of stirring.
- Distilled water makes great ice. Making ice with filtered, distilled or spring water results in firmer ice and better-tasting cocktails.
- The longer the stirring, the more the dilution. Stirring cocktails with ice makes it cold but this also adds water to the drink from the melting ice. Some cocktails require to be stirred for a longer time to mellow down the potent flavors from the alcohol to achieve the desired flavor. 15 seconds of stirring would add about 1 ounce of water from the dilution and every 15 seconds added would contribute an additional ¼ of an ounce of water. You can also taste the drink and adjust if it needs to be stirred longer or not.
What is a Cocktail Stirrer Called?
Every bartender should know what the cocktail stirrer is called as it is one of the most rudimentary and important bar tools. But, if you need a refresher, it is called the bar spoon, an obvious name that is true to its purpose.
Bar spoons are made from stainless steel and are designed to be long and narrow, about 12-15 inches so they could reach the bottom of the mixing glass and can fit by the side. Normal spoons have wider bowls but bar spoons have smaller and shallower bowls.
Most bar spoons have spiral handles that help in making the revolving motion when mixing and can also be used for the fancy pouring of liquors.
Bar spoons are multi-functional. Aside from stirring drinks, they also serve as measuring spoons, tools for layering, muddling, and picking up garnishes. And these are made possible by the type of end a bar spoon has. There are three types of bar spoons and you can find them in this article along with the most essential bar tools every bartender needs.
Shaking cocktails may be the popular trend now but stirring actually predates the shaking method and it is still a useful technique. It is the method used for making the most iconic and classic drinks such as the Martini, Manhattan, Gimlet, Old-fashioned, Negroni, and many more. Today, these are still beloved cocktails, which is proof that the stirring method has not turned obsolete. In fact, it is a technique that is hard to master and when you do, it will be a great achievement as a bartender.
Stirring cocktails give you control on the amount of dilution you want for a specific drink and let it have the clarity of the liquors that shaking will not provide. As always, you can start slow by practicing the proper stirring motion with water and then work your way up with handling liquors. If you follow the steps above, in time, you will grow to create the most delicious stirred cocktails and start stirring like a pro.