Course 13

Bartending Techniques


Ice is an important ingredient in many drinks. Choosing the right type of ice will enhance the drinking experience for each customer. There are 4 types of ice the should be available in the bar:

  • Cubed ice melts relatively slowly, so it’s best for mixed drinks and to use in shaken drinks. 
  • Crushed ice can be used in the blender or shaker when preparing frozen cocktails with a slushy texture.
  • Cracked ice melts faster than cubes and slower than crushed ice, and can be used to dilute or add dramatic effect to cocktails.
  • Finer ice can be made in a bag that is pounded with a rolling pin. This can easily be done at the bar.


Here are some tips for the perfect pour. Remember, the more you practice, the more elegantly and accurately you can measure and pour your liquids.

  • Place pour spouts on your most used bottles for speed and accuracy. Check that pourers are the right fit for the bottle, and that the air holes are clean and unblocked.
  • Pour with the label facing the customer and the bottle almost vertical. Try to pour a steady stream and avoid overfilling the glass or the measure.
  • The tipper should be at the edge of the jigger or measure. Keep the measure steady and tilt the bottle up and down.
  • The measure should be over the glass, so that you easily pour the spirit without spilling after the measure is filled.

Shaking & Straining

Shaking can be used to chill, mix aggressively, or break up fruit for a special cocktail. Using a Boston shaker (or other), add ingredients, then ice, secure the lid and shake vigorously until the shaker becomes cold in your hands. Most shaken drinks need to be strained or double-strained. Depending on the recipe, drinks are then served in a fresh glass or topped up with fresh ice.

Straining is used to remove sediments, unwanted ingredients and ice from a shaken or stirred drink. For a single strain, you may use a Hawthorne strainer grasped firmly to the rim of the mixing glass and pour into the serving glass. For a double-strain, one strainer will be grasped to the lid of the mixing glass and the other fine mesh strainer held over the serving glass. Straining is famously used for martinis (single) or cosmopolitans (double).

Muddling & Layering

Muddling helps to release flavors of the ingredients in a subtle way. The technique is famously used in making mojitos and mint juleps. To muddle, place ingredients (to be muddled) in a tough serving glass like a rocks or Collins glass, or a mixing glass, and moderately grind them in a circular motion. Once complete, you can add the ice and the rest of the ingredients and stir well to combine.

Layering adds a dramatic effect when combining ingredients of different densities. Different flavors are also released as the customer sips through the layers, creating a truly unique experience. Layering is done in the serving glass and you will need a barspoon to make it happen. Feel free to use recipes, or experiment with different ingredients to make signature serves.

Here’s how to layer in 3 steps:

  1. Pour the densest liquid in the glass.
  2. Turning your barspoon upside down and placing it along the inner edge of the glass, slowly pour the next ingredient over the back of the spoon so it drains slowly into the glass.
  3. Repeat this process until all ingredients are in the glass. (Remember, pour ingredients in order of density so they float on top of each other.)


You will need a mixing glass and a clean barspoon to mix drinks. Stirred drinks usually have strong spirits and also require the ice to dilute a bit to ensure a balanced taste. Remember to use either cubed, cracked, crushed or fine ice according to how diluted you wish the drink to be. 

Make sure you know the amount of time needed to combine the ingredients in the drink. Gently stir drinks with carbonated mixers just enough to mix the flavors. Drinks with syrups and thicker ingredients may need to be stirred up to 30 seconds to combine well.

  1. Place the barspoon on the inside edge of the glass and swirl around the edges, allowing the ice to move freely without breaking.
  2. Depending on the cocktail, you can then strain or pour into the serving glass.


Building is a basic skill that can add theater to the drink serving experience. Follow the sequence for speedy service.

  1. Place cocktail napkins for the number of drinks in the order.
  2. Place the correct glasses on top of napkins.
  3. First add ice, then syrups or lime and lemon juices.
  4. Add the spirits.
  5. Then, add the mixer and stir well.
  6. Finish with the appropriate garnish.


The right choice of garnish can add theatre, elegance and finish to your crafted drinks. Having garnishes prepared in advance helps with speed of service. All fruits should be washed prior to preparation. If time permits, some garnishes can be done on the spot to add drama to drink preparation.

  • Wedges – Limes, oranges and grapefruits do well as wedges. Cut off the edges and cut the fruit in half, removing the pit and core. Limes can be cut in 6 wedges, lemons 8 and oranges 16 wedges. 
  • Twist of citrus – Using a zester and channel knife or a small knife, make a cut from where the stem was toward the center of the citrus and keep cutting in a spiral shape. Make longer zests to curl and shorter to twist. 
  • Creative garnishes – Unique garnishes are excellent ways to add your own signature mix of fruits and combinations to drinks and wow consumers.


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