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Shake and Stir Your Way to Better Cocktails with These Pro Tips and Tricks

One of our favorite mixologists, Sas Stewart of Stonecutter Spirits, has insider tips and bartending techniques for crafting great cocktails at home.

Senior Digital Food Editor
Photography by: Mike Krautter

What's the best way to measure ingredients for a cocktail?

Sas Stewart: I really like to use jiggers to measure. It seems unlikely, but a quarter ounce difference one way or the other can really make a huge difference to the outcome of your drink. Some jiggers, like the Leopold model, have gradients on the inside so you can get all the measurements from a single jigger, which is quite convenient. That being said, I love the look and feel of the Japanese style so I keep several jiggers in different sizes at my bar. It always comes back to what you feel most comfortable with -- if you like the feel of one jigger over another then go with it!

If you're building something with a lot of liquid, like, say, a punch, instead of measuring over and over with my largest jigger I use a measuring cup.


Want to make punch for a crowd? Try Sas's gorgeous Adonis Punch recipe.
Photography by: Mike Krautter

How many drinks can you make at one time in a cocktail shaker?

Sas Stewart: If I'm using a home bar shaker tin, I typically go with two to three max, depending on the amount of liquid a drink calls for. Drinks tend to scale up and down just fine -- it's more that I don't want to have a totally full mixing tin when I'm making drinks; it cuts down on the chances I'll make a mess. Two-thirds full is my max.


What's the best way to shake a cocktail? How can we make sure we don't spill or fling the contents of the shaker?!

Sas Stewart: Shaking a drink can be intimidating, but it's a great technique to have in your back pocket. Really, the more times you do it, the more comfortable you'll be with the action of shaking -- and here's the big secret: It doesn't matter how you do it, as long as you're shaking! You'll see cocktail bartenders shaking above their shoulders, on their sides, all kinds of unique patterns, and it makes for an excellent show. But if you're home making drinks for yourself and friends, shake it any way you feel comfortable.


Ready to shake up a wintry cocktail? Try this recipe from Sas Stewart.

Why Do Some Drinks Call for Stirring Not Shaking?

Sas Stewart: The idea behind stirring is to chill a drink with ice, not to dilute it with ice shards. The key to stirring is to twist the stir stick as you move it around the edges of the mixing tin or glass mixer. This moves the liquid around while not breaking up the ice. Go slow to begin to get a hang of twisting the bar spoon as you move it -- you can move up to warp speed once you get the feel for it. The bar spoon is designed to make it easy to twist it (hence the grooves in the handle).

You can make a stirred drink in a mixing tin or a glass mixer; I prefer the latter because as the ice chills the drink, it can tend to get "stuck" to the metal sides of a tin. But if it's what you have at home, go ahead and use it!


Try This Stirred Cocktail Recipe Sas Created Specially for Us

What Is a "Rinse" for a Cocktail?

Sas Stewart: It's a great way to add depth and layer flavor in a cocktail. This time of year, a lot of cocktails can get a little absinthe rinse (like the Citrus Dreaming) to bring out the fall botanicals in your ingredients. It's actually quite simple -- you put a small amount in the glass and turn it on its side to coat it up the sides of your glass. Once you've coated the whole glass, shake out any remaining -- you want the essence of the rinse but not the alcohol itself. Another way to do a rinse is to set the glass down on a surface and then swirl the alcohol in the glass.


Photography by: Mike Krautter

What Do I Need to Know to Start Creating My Own Cocktails?

Sas Stewart: The key to making great drinks is to start slow with drinks you know and love, and master how to make those. Then start changing out one or two things and see how that changes the taste of the drink -- it's typically only a couple of moves to flip a one drink to another!


Learn More About Sas Stewart and Aged Gin and Get the Recipes