25 April 2014 08:06

Bartending: Causing a Stir - by Kevin Snyman

Most of us have at least heard of the stirred cocktail, if only from the famous James Bond line, "shaken not stirred". But it's nothing new, so why discuss it here then?

As I've seen in recent international trips, the latest trends in bartending are not always about reinventing the wheel, but more about bartenders going back to their roots; going back to where it all started and perfecting their craft the same way the legendary bartenders of yesteryear did. Stirring cocktails is one such example.

It sounds quite simple. Surely it's just a case of putting ice into a glass and stirring it with a spoon? Well yes, it could be, but it can and should be so much more. It shouldn't just be about the final product and how quick you can get it out. There are a number of places where this is the case and, as such, you can well understand then why cocktail culture and respect for bartenders are not where they could be. It's completely reasonable for consumers to have that reaction – the experience and connection has not been created. Theatre in making drinks is a neglected art and is a reason why things like stirring cocktails is such a hit. You see, unlike a chef in a kitchen out of view from customers, a bartender works in full view of his/her patrons. Yesteryear's bartenders made use of this platform and were well-liked and respected, not only because they could solve all customers' woes or tell a good joke, but because they included the theatre about what they did. They showcased their skills with high attention to detail and a sense of pride in what they did.

I understand that in South Africa, these methods of making cocktails were not introduced from the start. When mixed drinks first started becoming really popular there was more of an interest in beach-style concoctions, so there was little need for these elements. But when you consider how well-received a little bit of showmanship is elsewhere in the world, I think it's best that our bartenders take a lead from some of the top bars in South Africa and start to include it in their drinks-making routines.

So how do we do it then?

1. What equipment you will need?

  • Mixing glass
  • Bar spoon
  • Julep strainer

2. What drinks will you be stirring?
There are plenty of classics you can choose from. A great example is the Negroni, a simple, easy to remember Classic: 1 part Bombay Sapphire, 1 part Martini Rosso, 1 part Campari.

3. How you stir?
There are various techniques and each bartender has his/her own style. My advice would be to use a delicate touch, try not to manhandle the equipment, but treat it like you would your gran's expensive old china.

The spoon: as shown, place the spoon between your middle and ring fingers, using your thumb to balance.
The stir: stir the drink gently without disrupting the ice. Stir for about 15-30 seconds, depending on the drink and volume.
The pour: make sure to place the julep strainer correctly in the glass and with one hand grip and hold both.

Other tips:

  • Ice: bigger more solid pieces tend not to dissolve as quickly.
  • Chilling your glass: you can chill the glass your cocktail will be served in. Add ice to the vessel and, after the cocktail is stirred, pour the ice out before adding new ice.


Remember, the quality of everything – the equipment, the style – not just the spirit, is very important. The better the overall experience of the guest, the more likely they are to tip you and come back for more.


 Article by Kevin Snyman, Bacardi Brand Ambassador, South Africa

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