March 06, 2018

Stirred not Shaken: The Art of Cocktail Stirring

Stirred not Shaken: The Art of Cocktail Stirring Blog

James Bond loves his martini shaken, not stirred, but Google ‘cocktail stirrer’ and you’ll be faced with thousands of options. Which means there must be more to this stirring business…

So, why so many options? If a person can stir a cup of tea with any old teaspoon, can’t the same be said for cocktails?

The simple answer is, no! Just like shaking, there is an art to stirring a cocktail and to master it you’re going to need the right bar spoon or stirrer. As the Cocktail Novice says “When stirring is necessary, a specialized bartender’s spoon makes the process much easier. These tools are durable, easy to clean and won’t affect drink flavours like other tools might.”

Knowing when to stir and when to shake

Cocktails that include fruit juices, cream, egg whites, purees or other ingredients are best shaken to fully integrate the ingredients. Shaking introduces air into the drink, creating a lighter texture and a frothy top layer. Classic shaken cocktails include Margaritas, Daiquiris, or Piña Coladas.

According to Diageo Bar Academy, stirring is preferred for cocktails composed solely of spirits or non-carbonated ingredients. The main reasons for stirring are:

  1. Chilling: A stirred cocktail is brought down to the desired temperature.
  2. Mixing: Ensures that all ingredients are uniformly combined.
  3. Dilution: Proper stirring introduces enough dilution to balance the drink.
  4. Clarity: Stirring a cocktail is far gentler than shaking and allows the ingredients to slowly come together, while retaining the clarity of the cocktail and avoiding the aeration of the liquids that results from shaking.

Classic stirred cocktails include the Martini, Manhattan or an Old-Fashioned.

But the simple stir isn’t as easy as it looks, as professional bartender Eben Freeman says “Stirring techniques are definitely the most challenging for people. It has the least margin for error, and it involves the fingers and the hands, and people store a lot of tension in their hands.”

How to stir a cocktail

A cocktail that is stirred with the correct technique will have a superior taste and texture, so how do you do it?:

  1. Make sure the stirring glass is chilled.
  2. Add the cocktail ingredients and a scoop of ice to the stirring glass. Make sure to use large, clear, and dense ice cubes to effectively chill the cocktail while melting slower, ensuring minimal dilution.
  3. Insert the spoon down the edge of the stirring glass to the bottom and hold the spoon between your thumb and first two fingers, near the top of the spoon.
  4. Now stir around the edge of the glass whilst rotating the spoon in the fingers. Be careful not to agitate the drink - stir briskly but quietly.
  5. Stirring for about 20-30 seconds will sufficiently chill and dilute a cocktail. But you may stir longer and adjust based on taste and the drink's balance.
  6. Finally, strain the cocktail into the correct cocktail glass.
Making a stirred cocktail with ProStirrer

Choosing the right bar spoon

Bar spoons are made up of three parts - the bowl, shaft and end. The small bowl and the long, slim shaft means they can reach the bottom of most glasses, and squeeze in narrow glasses filled with ice.

The bowl of the spoon can be used as a measuring and layering tool. Überbartools’ stirrers have reinforced elements that prevent bending and breakage. Plus, the spoon is a very precise 5 mL measure, so you can rely on it for accuracy.

The shaft of stirrers is also multi-functional – the twist is sometimes used in layering drinks or bubble reduction when pouring Champagne. The tighter the twist in the rod, the easier to grip and rotate when stirring – the aim of the game is to make it look effortless!

The end of the spoon is where it gets interesting. The Überbartools ProStirrer uses a weighted flat end – perfect for stirring but also great for lightly muddling herbs. Some spoons have a trident-shaped end for picking up fruit garnishes, others have a teardrop-shaped end for cracking ice, while others have paddle-shaped end for gently lifting ingredients in high ball glasses.

The stirrer is an essential piece of kit for any bartender. It makes sense to choose one that is durable and fit for purpose like Über’s ProStirrer.