Stirring

Stir it up: A good barspoon, a Julep strainer and a half a mixing glass.

When do we stir a cocktail and why?

We stir it when we don’t need to shake it. If there are no juices, syrups or dairy products then our drink will incorporate easily and we can dispense with the extreme violence of shaking and stir it gently with ice leaving us with a beautiful crystal clear cocktail. In other words stirring is the default method of mixing a drink. And it’s done as follows.

You’ll need:

A mixing glass. While it’s nice to have a fancy one you can use any glass (or Pyrex) container in the region of 500ml. A pint glass, the glass half of a Boston shaker or simply a 500ml measuring jug will be fine. A broad base and vertical sides will make it somewhat easier however. A mixing glass has these features and is a worthwhile investment once you’ve got the technique down. You can get some fancy-ass crystal ones for the big bucks but a cheaper thick glass one is every bit as good. Spend the difference on a good bottle of rum.

A barspoon. What do you mean you don’t have a barspoon? Go and get one. Yes now, I’ll wait. OK. I hope you got a decent one. It should be at least 30cm long, stainless steel with a tightly twisted shaft (you’re damn right), a spoon at one end and something else at the other end. The non-spoon end varies a lot and doesn’t really matter that much but I like one with a bit of a counterweight to it, both to help stirring and to whack the knuckles of people who aren’t paying attention. Whadda ya mean the one you bought has a bit of red plastic on the end. Go on – back to the shop.

The Stir

Fill your mixing glass about three quarters full of cubed ice. I suggest assembling the ingredients in a separate glass first but you can also just throw them in one at a time too. Insert your barspoon vertically with the convex side against the edge of the glass. Grip the barspoon’s shaft (can you dig it) between your middle fingers and, well, stir.  Moving your fingers back and forth should cause the spoon to swirl around the inside of the glass (still with the convex side against the wall). Once you’re going at a good rate start to lift and drop the spoon a little and switch direction a couple of times. After a good 30 to 40 seconds – yes, it takes longer than shaking – you should have the chilling and dilution needed. Strain into your chilled glass. You had a glass chilling all the time, right? Good, I thought so.

The secret grip.

See how the drink is clear and not all cloudy like a shaken drink? That’s what it’s all about. While stirring will never get a drink quite as cold as shaking you can still get it pretty cold. The right technique and length of stir is essential and using ice straight from the freezer and chilling your mixing glass in advance will help. If you have space, keeping your spirits in the fridge will further help. Stir time is dependent on the size of your ice cubes – the larger the cubes the longer the stir.