Cocktail Techniques for Stirred, Shaken, Muddled, & Strained

Cocktail techniques can be quite confusing for stirred cocktails, shaken cocktails, muddled cocktails…. The first step in building cocktail knowledge is knowing when to apply the correct procedure.

Certain drinks are for shaking, while others are meant for stirring, and muddling. Factors in the decision are based on the ingredients in the cocktail and, for some drinks, the preference of the drinker. The blog will help you learn the correct cocktail techniques, and knowing when to use each will ensure that you can create better cocktails.

When to Stir, Shake, or Muddle?

Stir cocktails that contain spirits only with no mixers or food ingredients. A classic Negroni or a stiff Manhattan are examples of ‘up’ drinks that are stirred. Shake cocktails that contain citrus juice, cream, eggs, or dairy. Think of a Pisco Sour or Margaritas. You muddle cocktails that contain herbs and fruits. Drinks such as Mint Juleps or Mojitos are best muddled.

Tools for Mixing Cocktails

Measuring a Cocktail
Starting with the right equipment will help you make better cocktails. A soundbar setup will include:

  • Cocktail Shaker
  • Jigger / Measuring Device
  • Mixing Glass
  • Hawthorne or Julep Strainer
  • Serving Glasses
  • Bar Spoon
  • Muddler

Extend the knowledge further by using glassware appropriate for the cocktail.

Stirred Cocktails

Classic cocktails to stir include the Negroni, the Manhattan, and the Rob Roy Cocktail. This could apply to mixed drinks also that are built directly in the same glass they will be served in and sometimes generally referred to as cocktails like a rum and coke or a gin and tonic.

Why Stir a cocktail?

Stirring aims to combine ingredients gently and also to melt a little ice water to dilute a potent drink somewhat and make it more palatable.

What Is The Best Stirring Technique?

  • Fill your mixing glass halfway with ice.
  • Add liquor(s) and other cocktail ingredients.
  • Place the bar spoon inside the glass, hold it at the top of the twisted part, and gently rotate it around the inside edge of the glass for at least 20 rotations.

Bonus Pro Tip: The important thing is that you do not stir the cocktail rapidly or with too much vigour. Keep it slow and smooth.

Shaken Cocktails

Best Cocktail Shaking Tips

Cocktails that need shaking include the Brandy Alexander, the Sidecar, and the Margarita.

Why Shake a cocktail?

The aim of shaking cocktails is to mix the ingredients thoroughly while adding dilution from the ice to offer a slightly less intense and more palatable drink. For cocktails which has egg white, the shaking method whips till it becomes white foam with a velvety mouthfeel.

Types of Cocktail Shakers

Cocktail shakers come in basic types. The standard three-piece shaker has a built-in filter, making it an all-in-one convenient solution. Meanwhile, the two-piece shaker does not, and requires a separate strainer when building and serving individual cocktails. It can be used when learning how to shake a cocktail, and it is merely a matter of personal preference.

Muddled Cocktails

Muddling is the process of smushing herbs, fruit, or sugar into a cocktail to infuse their flavours. Cocktails to muddle have the Mojito, the Old Fashioned, and the Caipirinha.

Why Muddle?

The goal of muddling is to juice out the oils from herbs, or fruit juice, to help their flavours mix with alcohol. Do not aim to smash the ingredients and just gently draw out the essence of the ingredients. A muddler can be bamboo, wooden, or other materials, and can come with a rubber tip that helps avoid overly bruising herbs.

Straining Cocktails

How To Strain a Cocktail

Straining is usually the ultimate step in making a cocktail no matter what has been the preparation method.

Why Strain?

The purpose of straining a cocktail is to remove items before serving. It can be used to remove broken leaves, ice from a shaken drink or fruit from the muddled cocktail.

What Is The Best Straining Technique?

There are many ways to strain the drinks, depending on the type of bar equipment you are using. The three-piece shaker is the easiest and the most convenient to work with because the filter is built into the lid of the shaker.
The shaker or a mixing glass requires that you use a separate tool to strain, and there are two main types that you can use. The Hawthorne strainer which is a semi-circle of springs on the bottom, and a flat top that sits well on a shaker. The Julep strainer is round, concave perforated strainer with a handle, and is often preferred if using a mixing glass.

What is the Best Cocktail Shaking Technique?

  • Fill your cocktail shaker halfway with ice.
  • Add your liquor(s) and cocktail ingredients.
  • Make sure the cover lid is firmly in place.
  • Hold the shaker firmly with hand on each piece (if using the three-piece, place a finger on top of the lid to hold that in place also).
  • With the cocktail shaker pointed away from guests, shake vigorously over the shoulder for at least 15 seconds.

Bonus Pro Tip: Shake it as you mean it! The shaking method is intended to be more aggressive than stirring, so give it plenty of effort.

What Is The Best Cocktail Muddling Technique?

  • Use a sturdy and heavy glass with a solid base or cocktail shaker.
  • Place the ingredients in the bottom of the mixing glass.
  • Gently press down them and twist the muddler at the same time.
  • Repeat for at least 6-8 times until the ingredients are perfectly muddled.

Bonus Pro Tip: One can add ingredients at various times to allow for more or less muddling. Lime wedges or sugar can go in first, and take more turns, while delicate leaves such as mint can go in later, needing just a few twists to avoid damaging or overworking them.

Cocktail Knowledge and Techniques

These tips will build skills and understanding of the methods used, and learning the proper techniques will help serve and enjoy higher quality drinks. You may also want to further the cocktail knowledge by learning to make biters or applying your new cocktail, making skills with these classic cocktails with a twist. Cheers!