Up Your Bartending Game With These Advanced Techniques
So, you’ve mastered the basics of cocktails. You can shake, stir and strain a drink with ease. You can skewer and twist and zest garnishes in a jiffy. You can float, swizzle, express, dry shake and double strain too. Congratulations, you passed Bartending 101.
Time for the next level.
There’s a lot left to learn, grasshopper. These techniques—from doubling up on jiggers and shakers, to sabering Champagne, to tapping a keg—will take you to the next level of drink mastery.
Use Two Jiggers at Once
Doubling up your jigger hand may seem like a small change, but it can vastly speed up your drinks when you’re making cocktails en masse for a party of impatient drinkers. Hold a larger jigger—a 1- and 2-ounce jigger preferably—in between your thumb and forefinger, and use it by turning your whole hand. Hold a smaller jigger—preferably a .5- and .75-ounce jigger—between your forefinger and middle finger, and use it by rotating only those two fingers in a seesaw motion. This leaves your other hand free to hold a bottle and means the correct measurement is literally never out of reach.
Shaking two shakers at once isn’t much different from shaking one, but it does take a bit more confidence in your technique. Make sure you have a firm grip on both shakers, placing your thumb, ring and pinky fingers on the bottom tin, and your forefinger and middle finger on the top tin. Everything else is a matter of style—you can tap the tins together for a bit of flair, shake them together in a tricep extension motion or alternate like a piston.
Throwing a cocktail from one shaker tin to the other isn’t just a flashy move out of Cocktail. In fact, the garish display of coordination is a perfectly balanced mixing technique, somewhere in between rough shaking and delicate stirring. Begin with both shaker tins above your head and the strainer in place as usual. Then, as you pour, lower the catching tin to your midsection. Once fully poured, return the liquid to the original tin and repeat a few more times until well mixed.
Flame Cinnamon Sparks Over a Cocktail
Flaming cocktails get plenty of attention in a crowded room, but if you want to put on a real show, you can make a cinnamon fireball appear over a drink. Float some high-proof booze (usually 151) on top of a drink, light it safely, then sprinkle cinnamon on top. The falling spice will ignite into a cloud of sparks that appears explosive but is actually relatively contained. You can either sprinkle the cinnamon from above (again, carefully), or shake at the flame from a slight angle from a spice shaker.
Make an Ice Sphere
Making a perfect ice sphere doesn’t require any fancy technique or special skills. It just takes the right tool and dedicated practice. Pick up a proper three-pronged ice pick and go to work at an ice block slightly larger than the sphere you want, chipping away at every corner you see until you are left with a round ball. Pro tip: Pour a bit of water over the finished ball to smooth the rough surface.
Double your cocktails; double your fun. If you look closely at your Hawthorne strainer, you’ll notice there’s a gap in the middle separating two distinct channels for the liquid. Lining this gap up with the lips of two glasses sitting side by side allows you to pour a single tin into both cups at once.
It's unlikely you'll ever truly need to slash open Champagne with a sword, but if you're ever presented the opportunity, know it is one of the greatest visceral joys of this life. Keep the blade angled down at a 45-degree angle against the seam of the neck, and swing through like a golfer. Just don't go popping every bottle this way, otherwise you'll go from party hero to saber-happy weirdo.
Reverse Dry Shake
If you've mastered the dry shake for fluffy eggy cocktails, you can graduate to this more obscure practice. Simply reverse the order of standard and dry shakes. Shake the liquid ingredients with ice, strain the mixture into the smaller shaking tin or mixing glass, dump the ice, add egg white, and shake again. Julie Reiner of Clover Club fame prefers this method to make the bar’s eponymous cocktail, giving the drink an extremely large frothy head.
Tapping a keg is one of those skills you never think to learn until you absolutely need it. Worse yet, the stakes are high, with a beer geyser as penalty if you mess up. Don't worry; just follow the coupler lugs to line everything up. And whatever you do, make sure the tap is disengaged before you screw it in.
You can Macgyver your way into a bottle of beer with just about any household object, but—short of an actual opener—the most likely tool in your bar arsenal is a knife for slicing garnishes. Don't go stabbing away at the cap, though. Instead, use the spine of the blade to pry up the prongs of the cap, then use the forefinger of the hand holding the bottle as a fulcrum to lift the cap off.
This move is so difficult, there’s supposedly only one person in the world who can do it right: its inventor, master bartender Kazuo Uyeda. Mere mortals can only half replicate his majestic, impeccable shaking technique, which achieves perfect dilution and aeration—at least, according to Uyeda. But if you follow our detailed instructions you might come close.