Stirring a Drink - A Guide When, Why and How to Stir

To Stir or Not to Stir: A Closer Look at When, Why, and How to Use This Essential Bartending Technique
Master the art of stirring drinks with our guide. Discover when and why to stir instead of shake, and learn the technique for the perfect balance of flavors. Perfect for mixologists and home bartenders alike. With a focus on stirring, drinks, guides, techniques, and mixology.
a drink that is stirred in a glass by a hand


Every mixed drink is compromised by a few key ingredients. For cocktails, you need mainly booze and modifiers like citrus juices or syrups. To reduce the ABV of the Drink or to make it more drinkable, you add fillers like fruit juices, tea, club soda, or tonic water. And last but not least is ice, one of the main and most crucial ingredients.

For most stirred drinks, it is important to add ice to reduce the drinking temperature by properly diluting the ice and chilling the drink.

We will guide you through this topic; it ain’t no cocktail science, with some Best Practices, Videos, and content from other awesome Homepages.


When and Why should you stir a drink?

If the recipe purely demands liquor, you can remember the mixology rule of thumb to stir the drink.

While preparing the drink, there is a very rare amount of air that you are giving into the drink. That’s why a properly stirred drink will have a dense and silky texture. While a shaken drink will give a more frothy character.

The Cocktails, for example, contain mainly: whisky, vodka, rum, vermouths, or cocktail bitters, which should be stirred. They have a very similar density, and it’s easy to blend them.

Here are some examples of basic cocktail types that can be stirred:


Tricky ingredients that do not fit for stirring

If a recipe calls for other ingredients like sugary ingredients: fruit or herbal liqueurs, syrup, fruit puree, or honey. Or it contains dairy products like Milk or Cream; you better shake the mixed drink.



What equipment do you need to stir up a great drink?

Actually, the most simple equipment would be a glass and your finger. Just like in the good old days of Gaz Regan, who made it popular and awkward at the same time to stir the drink with his barely pure finger. 

Let’s go back to the business.

You will need:

  1. Bar Spoon
  2. A mixing vessel (cocktail mixing glass, cocktail shaker), but you could use regular glassware.
  3. A Hawthorne or a Julep Strainer
  4. A Jigger or measurement cup (to measure the ingredients, it’s very important but not a must)
  5. Ice Tong, Ice Scoop, or a Tweezer


The Barspoon is used to stir the ingredients. Further, you can use it to measure some small amounts of liquid, to pour a liquid slowly over another (to create a layered drink). Or use the spoon to take out some garnishes and ingredients like cherries or olives from a jar. There are plenty of bar spoon types, and they are not expensive and they are very durable. So you just need at least one spoon.

The Mixing Vessel is the container where you add your ice and liquors. If you use a mixing glass, you can see how the drink is swirling around, and you might also see some color change. Important is that it should be washed before, to prevent some off taste.

The Cocktail Strainer holds back the ice while pouring the drink into the serving glass. You don’t need to double strain the beverage.

The Jigger is used to measure your ingredients and be more accurate with the recipe. Keep in mind that sometimes the smallest ingredients might have the biggest impact on the taste experience.

The Ice Scoop or Tweezer lets you work more hygenic. So you don#t need to touch the ice with your bare hands. You can do it of course but do it please after washing and sanitizing your hands.


How long could you stir a drink?

Once you add ice, you can start with 20 to 30 seconds of making the drink. It all depends on the strength of the mixed liquid and how much softened you want it to be. The goal is to reach the desired flavour.

Those classic cocktails are mainly low sugar mixed drinks. Just keep in mind that the more you stir, the more dilution might be there. And don’t add to much ice into your mixing vessel. The ice that will have no contact with the liquid will dilute without properly chilling your beverage. At a certain point, the alcohol-water Ratio by too much overloaded by water. Your drink might lose its flavors and power in taste. But for someone who doesn’t like to drink strong booze, this might be the perfect fit. It always depends on the customer’s or guest’s preference.

If you want to know more about the crucial part of dilution in a drink, you can read the awesome book Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold.

You can always taste it between stirring the drink.

If you stir for a short period, you can always taste the drink while mixing it. Either you will use a spoon to taste, a straw, or you use your stirring spoon, drop a drop of liquid on your palm and try it.


Tips before stirring a drink with a bar spoon

  • Have all ingredients, garnishes, recipes, and equipment nearby.
  • You have more control over the dilution if you chill your ingredients in advance. For example, if you want to mix a Negroni cocktail, you could keep the Gin, Campari, and Vermouth in the fridge.
  • Chill your glassware (fridge, freezer, or ice & water).
  • Read one more time through the recipe before starting.
  • Always try to start with the cheapest and size-wise lowest ingredients, for example (bitters, sugar, alcohol)

How to stir a drink

We will now go through 2 different settings. First will be that you prepare your drink in a mixing glass and then pour it into the guest’s glass. In the second task, you will stir the drink directly into the serving glass.


Stirring in a mixing glass and straining into the guest glass – A step-by-step guide

  1. Pour all of your cocktail ingredients into your mixing glass. Keep in mind to start with the lowest and cheapest amount first!
  2. Add the ice carefully into your mixing vessel. Use a good amount of it but not too less. The ice should not swim in the liquid. But if you put too much ice in it, it will not affect the quality.
  3. Take your bar spoon and try to hold it, as shown in this video from DrinkSkool on Youtube
  4. Stir the cocktail at medium speed. Try to hold the bottom of the mixing glass with your free hand. If you use your fingertips, there will be lesser heat conduction to the glass.
  5. Once you think it’s the proper dilution and serving temperature, you can taste it. After you are confident with your drink production, you can strain it into the chilled serving glass. You must remove the bar spoon and place your strainer on your mixing glass. Then slowly start pouring.
  6. Garnish your drink it the recipe requires it.
  7. Clean up your working station.

Written by Timo Wessels.
Latest Update on 7. December 2023.

Table Of Contents

share this article