Mixing Cocktails Part II: How to Stir

Stirring cocktails may not have the prestige that shaking does (thanks James Bond), but we here at FMMS think it’s a bit more sophisticated than 007’s preferred method. Although we may be a little biased since some of our favourite drinks are stirred.

Check out Mixing Cocktails – Part I if you missed it.

When do I stir?

You want to stir cocktails which contain ingredients that are translucent. Your cocktail will be  heavily spirit and liqueur-based and the result will be less aerated and not as cold as a shaken cocktail.

Some of our favourite examples of stirred cocktails include the Manhattan, the Old Fashioned, the Godfather, and the Boulevardier.

What tools do I need to stir?


There are three main pieces that we need to stir things up:

Mixing Glass

These lovely pieces of barware are as functional as they are beautiful. If you’re picking up your first one, I would recommend a 675ml glass. The biggest difference between these and a tin are the lack of a taper (large opening, smaller base) and an added spout. The straight walls of this glass allow the spoon to rotate easily around with the ice, while the spout gives you a nice clean pour.

Bar Spoon

You guessed it – the bar spoon does the stirring. Pick one that feels comfortable in your hand. I’m a big fan of the 30cm Cocktail Kingdom spoons. The weight and spiral feel great in the hand and spin smoothly even in my tiny Hobbit hands.

I have to come clean: I love bar spoons! They come in many different shapes, colours, and sizes. If I could have one of each, I would, and one day I just might.

Julep Strainer


This is basically a large spoon with small round holes that lets the liquids through. It’s designed to sit inside the glass and retain most of the ice shards. Opposite to its cousin the Hawthorne strainer, which is designed to sit on top of the opening.

History tells us that in the time before drinking straws, your mint julep would come with a strainer like this. The drinker would use this tool to avoid a face full of crushed ice.

Where do I buy it?

As I mentioned last week in the Shaking post, we recommend sites such as Cocktail Kingdom or Boston Shaker for the tools you need to shake. Same goes for stirring.

A brief note on NEED

The common question around stirring tools is, “Do I really NEED separate tools to stir a cocktail?” The truth is, you’re at home. You can shake your cocktails in a bag and stir them in a soup bowl if you really want. But since you’re on our site, it’s safe to assume that you want to be better than that. You want the right tools for the job.

With that mentality, I recommend you pick up each tool slowly (because they can be pricey). There’s no shame in stirring your cocktail in your 18oz tin, but it will be easier (and sexier) in your Large Seamless Yarai Mixing Glass.

Ok, I’ve got the tools. How do I stir properly?

  1. In a mixing glass, pour in ingredients.
  2. Give the mixture a quick stir.
  3. Fill about three-quarters of the mixing glass with ice.
  4. Place bar spoon inside mixing glass.
  5. Hold the bar spoon bowl side down between middle finger and ring finger, resting the neck between your first and second knuckle. Use your thumb to counter by placing against the neck of the top of spoon.
  6. Starting with the back of the bar spoon at twelve o’clock, use your ring and index finger to pull the bar spoon toward you to six o’clock (keeping the back of the bowl against the side of the mixing glass).
  7. Using your ring finger, continue to clockwise by pushing the bar spoon from six o’clock to twelve o’clock (with practice, step 5 and 6 should be a smooth fluid motion).
  8. Stir for 20-30 seconds.
  9. Using a Julep strainer on an angle, cup the ice inside the mixing glass.
  10. Grab the mixing glass in with dominant hand, placing index finger over julep strainer to secure.
  11. Pour your drink through the strainer into your glass.
  12. Garnish and enjoy your tasty beverage.

You now know the basics of shaking and stirring cocktails! It’s really not that difficult. With a little practice, you’ll not only notice an improvement in your technique, but in the taste of your cocktails too. Remember, there’s no need to break the bank for bar tools. Start with the basics and work your way up until you feel more comfortable. Eventually, you won’t be able to live without them!

Knowing these fundamentals will help you on your way to making better cocktails for your friends and family – and I guarantee they’ll be mighty impressed with your new found skills and flavours!

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