Stirring a cocktail is one of the most difficult techniques to master. It takes Jedi-like training and focus to make your fingers one with the bar spoon. Most bartenders mix a stirred cocktail like a fat kid dive-bombing a kiddie pool, but the goal is to stir gracefully and silently. Relax, maintain form and don’t overwork the drink--otherwise you’ll end up with a watery Manhattan.
We’re not going to sugarcoat it—stirring is tough and only practice makes perfect. (Practice in this case means boozy drinks, though, so it’s not all bad.)
Pour all ingredients for your drink into a mixing glass. Fill the glass 2/3 of the way with ice. If possible, use a mix of large ice cubes and a small amount of crushed ice. You can quickly crush ice with the back of your bar spoon or with the back of an ice scoop in the palm of your hand. It’s loud and may startle people around you but it doesn’t hurt.
Using your dominant hand, hold the bar spoon so that it rests between your index finger and middle finger--like you’re holding a really long pencil. Gently slide the spoon down the inside of the mixing glass. The back of the spoon should rest against the inside edge of the mixing glass. Rather than using your wrist to propel the spoon, use your thumb to guide it around the inside wall of the mixing glass in a clockwise movement. As the spoon runs around the glass and gains speed it will create a vortex in the center of the liquid that propels the ice in a circular motion.
The best, most foolproof way to determine whether the drink is sufficiently diluted is by tasting it. The burning heat of alcohol should be replaced by a smooth, easy-drinking flavor--think drinkable velvet. Never use the ice in the mixing glass for the finished product. Always strain a stirred cocktail with a julep strainer.