Back to Basics: Essential Bartending Techniques

As a home bartender, understanding and mastering essential techniques is the key to elevating your craft cocktails and building your bartending chops. Even experienced mixologists return to the building blocks to refine their technique and perfect their drinks. Learn the fundamental techniques and you’ll be well on your way to making professional-quality cocktails to rival the very best offerings of craft cocktail bars.


Muddling involves gently crushing ingredients, such as herbs or fruits, to release their aromatic oils and juices. A muddling tool is designed specifically for this purpose—muddlers are perfect for evenly smashing ingredients so they can be smoothly incorporated into cocktails. However, in a pinch you can use the end of a wooden spoon. Some classic muddled cocktails include the Mojito, Mint Julep, Old Fashioned, and Caipirinha. 

Viski 12" Acacia Muddler


Shaking cocktails with ice not only chills the drink but also imparts aeration and dilution while smoothly blending ingredients together. Aggressive shaking breaks ice up into tiny shards, creating a frothy mixture that’s served up in a chilled cocktail glass or strained into a rocks or highball glass filled with fresh ice. Shaken cocktails tend to include citrus juice and ingredients like egg whites, which need to be shaken to be properly incorporated. Some of the best known shaken drinks are the Margarita, Whiskey Sour, Daiquiri, and, depending who you ask, the Martini. 

Viski Professional Titanium Cocktail Shaker


Stirring is a technique employed for cocktails that require gentle mixing without the addition of air and with less dilution. It’s particularly useful when crafting smooth, spirit-forward drinks—instead of the icy, frothy experience of a shaken drink, stirred cocktails have a silky texture and tend to be stronger. Examples of stirred cocktails: the Manhattan, Negroni, Sazerac, and once again depending who you ask, the Martini. 

Viski Admiral Mixing Glass

Viski Gold Weighted Bar Spoon


Straining is essential for removing solid ingredients, ice, or pulp from your cocktail. Whether making a shaken, stirred, or muddled drink, you’ll almost always need to strain it into the glass before serving. If you use a Boston shaker or mixing glass, you’ll need a separate straining tool such as a Hawthorne strainer that fits neatly over the opening, but many Cobbler shakers have a built-in strainer that fits into the main shaker tin. 

Viski Titanium Staghead Strainer


The art of garnishing adds the finishing touch to your cocktail, enhancing both its visual and aromatic appeal. A dash of bitters, preserved fruit, edible flowers, freshly grated spices, and sprigs of herbs all make wonderful garnishes, but require some preparation. Thoughtfully curated garnishes can take a simple cocktail from boring to exciting, and some drinks are almost synonymous with their traditional garnish. Think of a Dirty Martini without olives, Old Fashioned without the cherry and orange slice, and a Bloody Mary without a selection of appetizing pickled vegetables.   

Viski Walnut Channel Knife

Viski Gunmetal Deco Cocktail Picks

By honing these essential techniques and investing in quality tools, you can unlock the true potential of mixology. Experiment with flavors, balance, and presentation to create extraordinary cocktails that taste as delicious as they look.


Recipes, techniques, and products.