Now you might think stirring a drink would be the easiest thing in the world, but as with all things cocktail, there’s a few tricks that are worth keeping in mind.
Unlike stirring your coffee, there is a proper technique to stirring a cocktail and it all comes down to why you are doing it, when you are doing it and the accessories you need to do it.
Why You Want To Stir
Basically there are three reasons that you stir a cocktail. The most obvious one is so as to blend the ingredients but also you are chill the drink while adding the correct amount of dilution.
Generally stirring has one basic goal in mind and that is to blend the ingredients. For cocktails though there is the added reasons of temperature and dilution.
We often forget that water is the necessary but unsung hero of a perfectly formed cocktail. Stirring works well to control the level of dilution in a drink, while also maintaining its clarity.
When You Want To Stir
If you think all cocktails should come from a shaker, then Ian Fleming really does have a lot to answer for. If a drink is heavily spirited or booze-forward, then you always stir. In a Martini, a Manhattan, or an Old-Fashioned, you are after a silky mouth-feel with precise dilution and perfect clarity.
Shaking on the other hand adds texture and aeration: it changes the mouth-feel and binds ingredients that would readily separate with simple stirring.
The easiest way perhaps to think about it is ‘Shake for citrus, stir for spirits’.
What You’ll Need To Stir
Aside from the alcohol and some decent ice, stirring requires a vessel in which to mix, as well as a spoon with which to mix.
Bar spoons typically have a shallow dish but more importantly have a long slender stem. This is important as you want the spoon to reach down to the base of the mixing glass, while you hod the top of the spoon above the lip of the glass. Whether the spoon has a flat end, a folk end or a teardrop or even a muddler, is really up to you.
A mixing glass can really be any vessel. In a pinch, a Boston Glass or even the metal base of a shaker will do the job. Ideally though a standard mixing glass with enough room and a wide mouth, just makes things easier.
How To Stir
Stirring takes a certain amount of finesse. The aim is to move the spoon around the inside wall of the mixing glass, to gently push the ice through the ingredients without actually fracturing it. You really don’t want fragments of ice floating in your otherwise perfectly formed Manhattan.
As any good bartender will tell you, you know you are doing it right, when you can’t hear the ice moving around. So really it should swirl, not be jostled. Generally you want to stir for about 30-45 seconds, at which point you should have a properly diluted, well mixed cocktail that is clear, cold and ready to be poured.
So, Ready To ‘Stir With Ice And Strain’?
- Always chill both you mixing glass and the glass in which you will serve the drink. The easiest way is to put them in the freezer for a few minutes but the other completely respectable choice tis to fill both with ice and a little water.
- When you are ready to stir, dump the ice water and add your measured ingredients. Then fill the mixing glass two-thirds with fresh ice. Adding less ice will not better control the dilution.
- Take your spoon between your thumb and your first two fingers of your dominant hand. The shaft of the spoon should be between your index and middle finger. Slide the spoon down the inside edge of the glass until it almost touches the base.
- Keeping your arm and, to an extent, you wrist still, use your fingers to move the spoon. If you think of the glass as a clock, then you use your index finger to pull the spoon toward you (from the twelve o’clock position to the six o’clock) and your middle finger to push it away. The spoon will spin about in your fingers on its own axis and the ice and liquid will move about the glass.
- Stir for about 30-45 seconds.
- Dump ice water, if using, from the serving glass, then strain stirred cocktail into serving glass and garnish as required.