POPSUGAR Celebrity

Home Bar Boot Camp: 9 Essential Techniques to Master

Mar 6 2015 - 11:00am

If you've resolved to master your home bar in 2015, then look no further; take cocktails from basic to brilliant with indispensable bartending techniques that go beyond shaking and stirring. From rimming glasses with salt or sugar to dry-shaking egg whites to add volume to light and frothy cocktails, these nine skills will add flair and flavor to your cocktail hour.


If you prefer your cocktails served up, versus on the rocks, you'll need to strain out any ice and solid ingredients after shaking or stirring your drink. This can be done either using the strainer built into a cobbler shaker [1] (pictured) or with a hawthorne [2] or julep strainer [3] used in tandem with a Boston shaker [4].

Practice the technique with: A stinger [5] or a Hemingway daiquiri [6].

Salted/Sugared Rim

Sugar- and salt-encrusted glass rims add visual interest, flavor, and a pleasant tactile experience to cocktails, with salt also providing the added benefit of tempering bitter ingredients [7] like grapefruit juice. To construct, run a citrus wedge around the edge of the glass and then dip it in a saucer filled with coarse salt, sugar, or even celery salt (excellent in Bloody Marys).

Practice the technique with: A classic margarita [8] or a limoncello Champagne cocktail [9].


Infuse the most flavor from aromatic herbs like mint into cocktails by bruising the leaves in the bottom of a cocktail shaker using a plastic or wooden muddler [10].

Practice the technique with: A mojito [11] or a mint julep [12].

Citrus Twists

On first glance, strips of citrus peel — citrus twists — may seem all style and no substance, but don't write off the surprisingly easy technique just yet. These elegant additions add a note of aromatic citrus oils to whatever drink they touch; just remember to twist the twist over the cocktail glass, or rub the outside of the peel around the rim to infuse the most flavor. To make citrus twists [13], use a channel knife [14] or y-peeler [15] to remove strips of citrus peel.

Practice the technique with: A French 75 [16] or a negroni [17].

Infuse Flavor

Add layers of complex flavor to cocktails by infusing fruit (or even some vegetables) in alcohol by soaking the garnish in a spirit like vermouth or brandy for at least a day before adding it to the cocktail.

Practice the technique with: A vermouth-infused cranberry martini [18] or with brandied cherries [19] (add them to a Manhattan [20] or a French 75 [21]).

Clap Herbs

Rather than just plopping an herbal garnish directly into the glass, firmly clap (also known as spank) the sprig of herbs between two hands; this helps to release the herbs' aromatic oils without being so rough as to bruise and discolor the garnish.

Practice the technique with: A celery southside [22] or a mint julep [23].


Love the look (and taste) of layered cocktails? Luckily, it's a relatively easy technique to master, provided you have the requisite equipment. Slowly pour less-viscous ingredients on top of denser ones over a bar spoon [24], which helps blunt the impact and mixing of ingredients. Just make certain to follow the recipe's order of operations, so as to make sure the heaviest ingredients are poured first.

Practice the technique with: A black and tan [25] or a mai tai [26].

Dry Shake

Add airy, frothy volume to cocktails by dry shaking [27] — vigorously shaking egg whites in a cocktail shaker without ice or other ingredients — before incorporating them into your drink of choice.

Practice the technique with: A Ramos gin fizz [28] or our frothy take on the whiskey sour [29].


While most cocktails are shaken or stirred [30], some benefit from an intermediary method: rolling the cocktail between two glasses [31] or inside a cocktail shaker. To roll a cocktail, gently invert the ingredients about 10 times inside a sealed cocktail shaker filled with ice, or pour the ingredients between two glasses to mix and chill as is shown in the video.

Practice the technique with: A bloody Mary [32] or a celery southside [33].

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