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How to stir cocktails at Make Cocktails at Home

Mixing Cocktails 101 – How to stir a cocktail

The proper way to stir a cocktail


For more info about bar equipment check out the ‘Essential Equipment for your home bar’ blog post

Time for the next post in my series on mixing methods, and today we’re going to take a look at stirring, or stirred,  cocktails.

I’ve previously covered shaking, an aggressive action we use when we need to mix ingredients that that differ greatly in consistency (mixing spirits, juices and syrups together for example), but what if we are using simpler ingredients?

If we are simply mixing two types of clear alcohol together (such as gin and vermouth) then the aggressive nature of shaking  is really more than we need- it  will ruin the appearance of the drink by making it cloudy,  and the small chips of ice that break off during the shaking action can also add often unwanted dilution to the drink.

Instead, we’re going to treat this cocktail with respect – be gentle, and stir.


You will need:

  • Mixing glass (part of your shaker set)
  • Bar spoon

Take your (clean) mixing glass and fill it with (clean) ice.

Using a measure for accuracy pour in the ingredients from your cocktail – for example if you are making a Martini, pour in measured amounts of gin and vermouth.

Now you have the ingredients in the ice it’s ready to mix.



It’s time to grab your bar spoon. Ever wondered why it was so long? Well, wonder no more – the extra length lets us get right to the bottom of a mixing glass to the precious, precious alcohol.

Carefully push the ‘spoon’ end of your barspoon down the side of the glass right down bottom, holding the base of the mixing glass steady with one hand.  Stir the spoon around in a gentle circular motion making sure that the ice and liquid  move around almost silently – we want a smooth mixing action, we’re not trying to smash the spoon through the ice.

Continue stirring until the drink is mixed – you may read ridiculous things in fancy guides like “stir clockwise 27 times” but really the mount you need to stir will depend on how fast you are stirring, and in general it will probably take around 30 seconds. The most important thing to remember is that we are stirring for a reason – we want to make the ingredients mix and the drink temperature nice and cold – so we will be finished when we have accomplished these two goals.

Mixed and cold, it’s time to move the drink into our glass. Grab your Hawthorne strain (or a Julep strainer if you have one), fit it over the top of your mixing glass and carefully pour your cocktail into it’s new home.


Done.  Now be a good bartender – rinse your equipment – and then take a seat, relax, and enjoy your beautiful stirred cocktail.


/ dave

Sweet Manhattan

Weekend ready cocktails – the Sweet Manhattan


Sweet Manhattan


Sweet Manhattan

There has been a real resurgence in the bars for true classic cocktails in the past few years, helped in part to the general increase in bartenders knowledge, the rise of  speak easy style bars, and the popularity of cult shows and characters like Don Draper of the hit Mad Men. One of the true classics, and a favourite of many a bartender and customer the world over, is the Sweet Manhattan.

The cocktail (a mix of whiskey and vermouth) was invented sometime around the 1870s, as vermouth was seeing a rise in popularity as a bar ingredient, and is commonly credited to being first made at the Manhattan Club in New York (hence the name).  Very early recipes used an almost equal amount of whiskey to vermouth but over the years this has evolved and the modern cocktail tends to be a much more whiskey heavy drink.



You will need

  • Cocktail glass or rocks/old fashioned glass
  • Rye whiskey (an American style of whiskey, you can sub with Bourbon if that’s what you have)
  • Sweet Vermouth
  • Angostura Bitters



Chilling the glass


The particular taste of the Manhattan comes from the whiskey:vermouth ratio used when making the drink, so the proportions of each ingredient you use becomes very important. For this example we are going to go for a 5:2 ratio, meaning five parts whiskey to 2 parts vermouth (this is a reasonably classic ratio for a Manhattan).


If you are going to serve your Manhattan ‘up’ ( in a cocktail glass), then the first step is to get your glass chilling. You can do this by putting your glass in the freezer (if you have space), or taking your glass and adding a couple of ice cubes and some water. This will let the glass cool down while we make our cocktail. This step is not as necessary if we are using a rocks glass as we will have ice in the rocks glass when we serve the cocktail.


Mixing the cocktail


Take your mixing glass (the glass that comes with your Boston shaker) and fill it with cubed ice. Measure in 50ml Rye whiskey, 20ml sweet (red) vermouth, and add two dashes of Angostura bitters.


Stir the liquid in your mixing glass with your bar spoon; the aim is for us to cool the drink down and mix the ingredients, two jobs we should be able to do with around 30 seconds of nice even stirring. Try and stir smoothly around the side of your glass; you want the ice to move around quickly but gently.


Once the ingredients are nicely mixed and the drink is cold, empty the ice and water from your cocktail glass (it should be getting cold now), and using your Hawthorne strainer, pour the Manhattan into the cocktail glass, making sure you don’t let any ice fall in.




Last but not least, we can garnish the drink. A traditional garnish for a Sweet Manhattan is a maraschino cocktail cherry (the bright red cherries you can by in a syrup filled jar), or for a slightly different flavour, try an orange twist. To prepare an orange twist you’ll need to cut off a small strip of orange peel, about 1cm x 8cm long, avoiding as much of the bitter white pith on the back as possible.


Once you have your twist, hold it over the top of your glass and squeeze the skin together – if you have done this correctly you’ll see a spray of orange oil fall on the top of your Manhattan, giving a nice subtle orange flavour to the drink. Now ‘twist’ the orange slice and drop it into your cocktail.


(If this all seems a little complicated don’t worry – a lesson on garnishes will be up soon explain it all in much more detail!)




Now it’s time to enjoy your Manhattan!



Variations to Try


The Sweet Manhattan has a few other direct family members: the Dry Manhattan, which you can make by substituting the sweet vermouth in the original recipe with dry vermouth, and the Perfect Manhattan, a cocktail made using both sweet and and dry vermouths.

An easy way to play with a Manhattan is to change the brand or amount of vermouth you use; instead of  5:2 ratio you could try 4:2 or 3:2, or you could try using a less common brand, perhaps something like Punt e Mas or Antica.


You can also play around with the bitters; try increasing or decreasing the number of dashes of Angostura, or lose the Angostura altogether and try another style of bitters completely. There are now a huge range of bitters that could be used in its place, Orange Bitters (such as Reagans or Fee Brothers) or Peychard will give a different flavour to your cocktail


Finally, you could try skipping the American Rye or Bourbon all together and use Scotch instead; doing this will give you a cocktail known as a Rob Roy.


As always, if you have any questions or feedback either leave a comment or contact me, otherwise


Happy mixing!


/ David


Recommended Products from Amazon for Manhattan Cocktail

Pikesville Rye

Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey 700ml

Regans' Orange Bitters

Regans’ Orange Bitters, 148 ml

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