Techniques: Stirring 101

I have never been properly trained in the bar. Years ago, when I had the first itch to be a keeper, I benefited from a “it’s who you know” situation and quickly found myself keeping at a casual-fine dining restaurant. There was one caveat from my employer; I had to attend “bartending school.”

Now I say “bartending school,” because the instruction (at the Nation’s largest bartending “institution”) is a joke for anyone looking to do more than sling electric green cyanide over Spring Break. That was never my intention, but I learned there the “art” of using sour mix and a whole slew of other bad habits that a young, pliable pupil like myself was prone to receive. I was never taught proper shaking or stirring techniques, when to stir versus when to shake, nor proper hospitality — all basics of the craft. I was taught to stay away from egg, to work for quantity over quality… I was effectively taught the opposite of everything that should be taught.

It’s fair to say that “bartending school” did more harm than good. In the years that followed, I was alone in the bar and sans a mentor. I picked up more bad habits. In fact, in retrospect, I wasn’t a very good bartender and decisively not a mixologist. After awhile I started observing my local bartenders, what they were doing and started doing more research. I’ve been working ever since to unlearn the bad I had learned and to reinvent myself the way I want to see myself; still after all these years, after having watched dozens if not hundreds of bartenders, one simple technique had eluded me until now… stirring. 

I’d like to thank Jim Meehan for the video below, which breaks down in the simplest terms possible, the physical technique of stirring a cocktail.

“And he feared neither death nor living nor stirring no more.”

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One response to “Techniques: Stirring 101

  1. Great post and video. I appreciate the humility about your past experiences with bartending and bartending school. As a complete novice, I’m curious if you could shed some light on when one might stir versus when one might shake a drink. There seems to be a ton of shaken drinks out there, possibly spurred on by the, “Shaken, not stirred,” line made famous by James Bond. Do you know of any popular drinks that should/must be stirred rather than shaken?

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