Stirring a drink sounds easy. But of the three techniques, stirring takes the most practice to get right. Here’s how it’s done. (This video is also a great tutorial, if you prefer a visual aid.)
Measure the ingredients and pour them into the base of a cocktail shaker or into a mixing glass. Then add plenty of ice. There needs to be enough ice that the weight of ice on top pushes the rest of the ice to the bottom of the shaker, not just floating on top. This is important to increase the amount of ice that’s in contact with the drink.
Insert a bar spoon along the edge of the shaker so that the back edge of the spoon is touching the metal (or glass). Hold the bar spoon loosely between your second and third fingers, allowing to to spin freely as you stir. By curling your fingers, you should be able to pull the bar spoon toward you with the your index and middle fingers; then extend your fingers to push it away from you with the top of your ring finger. The spoon should rotate around the edges of the mixing glass, with the back of the spoon in constant contact with the glass.
This should spin the ice smoothly, without rattling it around. Rattling the ice can break off small chips of ice that over-dilute the drink. It also adds small bubbles, messing with the smooth, clear texture of the drink.
Practice Makes Perfect
It takes some practice to get familiar with this motion. When I first started, I had a cheap, flimsy bar spoon, and I had a hard time getting a feel for it. It was easier after I upgraded to one that is evenly weighted so I was pushing and pulling it near its center of gravity. (This is the bar spoon I use.)
You should stir the drink for 20–30 seconds. This is longer than you think, so use a timer or count slowly in your head until you get a feel for it. Stirring will melt the ice into the drink, chilling it and diluting it appropriately. The longer you stir, the more dilution you will get, but unless you stir for a very long time, this will still introduce less water than shaking. It’s important to melt enough water into the drink or it won’t be properly balanced—just try a Negroni that hasn’t been stirred enough; it won’t be very good.
Finally, strain the drink into the serving glass and add the garnish.