How To Stir a Cocktail Like the Pros

Barspoons Ready? It's Time to Stir Up a Great Drink

Cocktail on Bar with Stirrer
A good barspoon will help you stir drinks because the shaft is longer and the twisted shaft makes it easier to stir drinks. Alyson Aliano/Stone/Getty Images

Do you know how to properly stir a cocktail? It may surprise you that there is a 'proper' technique for this seemingly simple task in the bar and the quality of your drinks will improve if you put it into practice.

When Should You Stir a Cocktail

Drinks are typically stirred when they contain distilled spirits only. Martinis and Manhattans are perfect examples of 'up' drinks that are often stirred (though some drinkers prefer them shaken).

You will also stir when building a mixed drink directly in the glass it will be served in.

It may seem like a simple technique that you mastered when you were four, and it is, but its purpose in mixology is important. When you stir drinks, the goal is to gently combine the ingredients and dissolve enough ice to water down the potent mix, making it more palatable and enjoyable for the drinker. 

How to Stir a Drink

The most important thing to remember is that you don't stir cocktails like you are mixing a cake batter, that would only create a mess and splash sticky liquid all over the bar. Instead keep it slow, smooth, and steady; essentially, be patient.

  1. Fill a mixing glass halfway with ice. Use the base of a cocktail shaker or a highball or pint glass if no mixing glass is available.
  2. Add the liquors and other cocktail ingredients.
  3. Hold a barspoon with your thumb and first two fingers at the top of the twisted part of the shaft.
  1. Technique #1: Dunk the bar spoon into the glass and twirl the shaft back and forth and up and down for 20-30 seconds.

    Technique #2: Place the bar spoon along the inside of the glass and gently rotate it (moving only your wrist) around the outer edge for 20-30 seconds.

  2. Strain the drink into a well-chilled glass appropriate for the cocktail.

    Tip: Remember that unless you're mixing a drink in the serving glass, it's best to use fresh ice for stirred or shaken drinks served on the rocks. Fresh ice will dilute slower than the mixing ice, which has already broken down from the agitation.

    When making mixed drinks (built in a glass over ice) most bartenders will either leave the drink as is or give the drink a stir or two. They will typically include a sip stick or straw for the drinker to stir as desired.

    What is a Barspoon?

    The barspoon is designed specifically for use in the bar and it should be considered an essential piece of your bar tool kit.

    • Barspoons are typically between 12 and 15 inches long.
    • The spoon's bowl is often thinner and smaller than the average kitchen spoon: sometimes it is more of a paddle shape. This small bowl allows you to stir drinks in almost any sized glass.
    • Some barspoons have a few holes in the spoon that helps when layering drinks.
    • The long shaft of a barspoon is often twisted to allow for easy twisting while stirring. If you want to get fancy, you can also pour liquors down it while floating ingredients (that does take some practice).
    • Barspoons are often made of stainless steel though copper is becoming a popular option.
    • Many barspoons are weighted and the end opposite the spoon is heaviest. This helps makes stirring smoother.

    Barspoons do not have to be expensive and in most cases, you can pick one up for less than $10. You will find it useful beyond stirring drinks for various tasks like fishing cherries out of a thin jar.

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    Tip: If no bar spoon is available, use the longest spoon possible and slowly stir it around the glass while moving it up and down.

    Many professional bartenders will also give their barspoons a little extra curve near the bowl. This is done by carefully bending the spoon just above the bowl so it has a bit more of a scoop. It's not necessary but helps give the tool a little more 'grab' in the glass so it reaches beyond the edges.