A Quick Master-class in Cocktail Mixing - four ways to shake, roll, stir or whip up a storm

World Best Bar

Aug 06, 2018

A Quick Master-class in Cocktail Mixing - four ways to shake, roll, stir or whip up a storm
It’s Friday night, your friends are around, and you are self-appointed bartender. You’ve got the kit: cocktail shaker, ice cubes, citrus slices. But have you got the technique? Before it comes to learning the nuances and subtleties of ingredient pairing, you need to learn some practicalities. Here’s a list of the four main ways to knock up a masterful beverage.


Stirring a cocktail may sound simple but it’s easier than you think to mess up a drink with some over-enthusiastic whisking.

Your main goal here is to gently blend the ingredients, but also dilute and chill the drink to the required level and temperature. Stirring is best for drinks made purely from spirits – think Manhattans or Martinis – where you don’t want too much aeration or little bits of ice to spoil the clarity of your drink.

There are countless theories about the exact science of stirring, and which particular finger position is best. But our main pointers are:

1)     Put your spoon in the glass before you add your ice and spirit

2)     Aim to keep the spoon as connected to the glass as possible

3)     Stir for about 45 to 120 seconds

4)     Use your wrist to turn the spoon, not your whole arm – the spoon should spin on its axis


This is probably the most impressive and entertaining of all the cocktail techniques, but also the easiest to mess up. So aside from showing off, why would you choose to roll over any other mixing technique?

Rolling mixes the ingredients together with minimum dilution and aeration as you are essentially just pouring the contents of one glass into another and back again. This makes it perfect for something like a Bloody Mary where you don’t want to water down your tomato juice, and is also the preferred way to mix carbonated drinks where shaking risks an embarrassing shaker blow up.

Fill one tin slightly more than halfway with ice, and secure with a strainer. In the other tin, assemble your cocktail. Then transfer the mix into the tin with ice, and back again, no more than four times, before pouring the drink into a glass.

The next level up from rolling is “throwing” where one vessel is held up high above your head and the other down below your knee, and the drink is poured from one to the other. A tradition that began in China “throwing” rice wine, this technique is great for drinks that include wine and sherry, increasing aeration and releasing aromas. Think you’re up to the challenge?

Rocks Shake

This is where you get to experiment. Varying the size of your ice cubes, and how long and how intensely you shake will all impact your finished creation. Just be wary of over-shaking – no one wants a watery Daiquiri.

Build up your drink, including ice, secure the lid, and shake over your shoulder. Then add some music to really refine your shaking style.

Top tip: look for when the cocktail shaker begins to get frosty on the outside – this is a sign you have shaken the ice enough.

Dry Shake or Whip

Dry shakes or whips are used to mix ingredients with different textures – dairy or eggs, for example.

For a dry shake, you want to add all the ingredients together – except the ice – and then shake for 15 seconds before adding the ice and shaking again.

Recipes calling for egg whites require a reverse dry shake because as soon as you add the ice, it will mess up that perfect layer of foam you created. Instead, add all the ingredients except the egg whites to the ice, shake, strain to remove the ice, and then add the egg whites and shake again.

For a whip, shake the drink with only one cube of ice, or a few crushed ice pellets until the ice melts. Whips are best for drinks served over crushed ice, like a Mai Tai.

Now that we’ve covered the basic techniques of mixing, fancy a drink? What are your top tips for an alcoholic tour de force?

Image by Chinh Le Duc on Unsplash
Edmund Oast

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