Home Bar Basics - 12 Essential Cocktails to STIR or SHAKE

Want to make more cocktails?  Need a starting recipe for stirring those classic drinks?

Taking a serious moment to give a serious nod to Dave Stolte over at Home Bar Basics as the starting point for this post about classic drink recipes.  He outlines "twelve drinks that form the core of a home bar menu" on www.homebarbasics.com


 Courtesy of Dave Stolte, Home Bar Basics

It's the kind of list that makes me squirm in my seat and want to run out and make a cocktail, immediately.  That, and Shawn Michael just built a beautiful bar in our home.

But first, back to the basics, and the basic question of "shaken or stirred?"  It's really this simple:


When to STIR

When a cocktail includes all clear spirits & liqueurs. 


When to SHAKE

When a cocktail contains fruit juice, dairy, or egg whites

So here's Dave's list of the 12 essential cocktails for home bars.  Many of you have been asking for drink recommendations, and I say, START WITH THESE!  Learn the basics, because a really well-made classic cocktail is hard to beat. I've summarized the method you use (STIR or SHAKE) and ingredient list, but click through to Home Bar Basics for a thorough look at each.

STIRRED Cocktails

Old Fashioned - STIR - Bourbon, Simple Syrup, Bitters, Orange Twist

Sazerac - STIR - Rye, Herbsaint/Absinthe, Simple Syrup, Bitters, Lemon Twist

Manhattan - STIR - Rye, Vermouth, Bitters, Cherry

Martini - STIR - Gin, Vermouth, Bitters, Lemon Twist or Olive

Negroni - STIR - Gin, Vermouth, Campari, Orange Twist

Rusty Nail - STIR - Scotch Whiskey, Drambuie, Orange Bitters, Lemon Twist

Required Tools for Stirred Cocktails:

  • Jigger or Measuring Device, preferably in ounces
  • Mixing Vessel - You can stir some of these in the serving glass, like the Old Fashioned. We think it's a better experience when you use a Mixing Glass, then serve over fresh ice so the drink doesn't get too watered down.  Some drinks that are served up in coupe or martini glasses should always be stirred in a Mixing Glass.  
  • Hawthorne or Juelp Strainer, if using a Mixing Glass.
  • Cocktail Spoon - Pretty essential item.  If you've never used a bar spoon, you should probably take a look at the Wingman spinning cocktail spoon as an incredibly swanky place to start.
  • Serving Glasses - Not necessary, but highly recommended.  Investing in a few appropriate styles of glassware will make your drinks OH SO much more presentable! 



The Negroni: Three Ingredients - timeless and delicious! Click through to see an incredible photoseries of the Negroni being made.

SHAKEN Cocktails

Mint Julep - SHAKE - Bourbon, Simple Syrup, Spearmint Leaves (well, technically it's a swizzle!)

Tom Collins - SHAKE & STIR - Gin, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup, Tonic Water, Citrus Wheel

Sidecar - SHAKE - Brandy or Cognac, Triple Sec, Lemon Juice, Lemon Wheel

Margarita - SHAKE - Tequila, Triple Sec, Lime Juice, Simple Syrup, Lime Wheel

Daiquiri - SHAKE - Rum, Lime Juice, Simple Syrup, Lime Wheel

Cuba Libre (Preparado) - SHAKE & STIR - Rum, Gin, Lime Juice, Bitters, Coca-Cola, Lime Wedge

Required Tools for Shaken Cocktails:

Same as those for Stirred Cocktails, but switch out the mixing glass and cocktail spoon for a shaker, and you're good to go.  Shaken cocktails often incorporate fruit, citrus, or other aromatics that need to be incorporated, and sometimes you need a Muddler for that:

  • Cocktail Shaker - you can use a cobbler shaker, a boston shaker, or a set of tins - the idea is to have something that won't leak, and that you can give a gooooood shaking too.  Dumping the drink between one pint glass and the other is more of a folding technique, and doesn't do the same thing.
  • Muddler - Some of these drinks require a bit of pressure - like the Mint Julep!  Muddlers should be unfinished and unvarnished - no chemicals in the drink, guys! When muddling delicate herbs like mint and basil, you don't want to tear the leaves to shreds, which is why we recommend a muddler without teeth - just a nice flat muddling surface.


Muddling mint for the Mint Julep Cocktail - get a Muddler without sharp teeth that rip the mint to shreds!  An all-natural, unfinished muddler with a nice flat muddle end is best. 

Well folks, those are the basics!  Check out Home Bar Basics for more cocktail recipes and how-to, and stock up on your cocktail tools for stirred and shaken cocktails over at our Shop.


Rachel Eva 

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