How to Throw a Cocktail with Confidence and Ease

throwing a cocktail

At the cozy Curtain Club in Berlin's Ritz Carlton, award-winning bar manager Arnd Henning Heissen shows us how to throw a cocktail. This method draws in oxygen to the mixture, by pouring the cocktail mix from one shaker to another, with one hand pouring the mix from above into a shaker in your other hand below, as you “pull” your hand below down as low as possible.

Arnd’s first tip is to practice with water first, to build up your self esteem and get your arms accustomed to the motions. When are you ready to graduate from throwing water? “It’s a feeling — when you start getting extravagant,” Arnd says, “Or once you start chatting while throwing the cocktail, then you’re ready.”

Three bottles of liquor Photos by Elizabeth Rushe.

Arnd demonstrates throwing here with his Eau de Vie Martini. You're going to need:

  • 2 centiliters Mancino Vermouth
  • 5 centiliters Blackwood Gin
  • 1 centiliter Eau de Vie Sicilian Clementine
  • Ice
  • 2 shakers
  • Chilled serving glass

Begin by collecting your tools and ingredients. Don’t add any ice to the shaker yet. Pour Mancini into a shaker, followed by the Eau de vie Sicilian Clementine, finally adding the Blackwood Gin.

A man pouring liquor into a jigger

Add ice cubes to the mix, filling all the way to the top of the shaker, then jiggle the shaker so that the cubes fall naturally into place — “like Tetris!” Arnd says.

A man jiggling a shaker.

Now you’re ready to start throwing your cocktail. The most important thing to remember is that you’re adding oxygen to the cocktail. So, the faster you pull the shaker away, the more oxygen is brought into the mix, Arnd says.

Place a strainer on top of the shaker containing the martini. There should be enough room for the strainer to sit comfortably on top of the ice at an angle. You may need to remove a cube or two.

A man putting a strainer on top of a shaker.

In the beginning keep your gaze directed forward, keeping an eye on the shaker in your left hand, which is pulling down. Try not to look at the shaker above in your right hand.

With the strainer always in your right hand, and holding an empty shaker in your left hand, start pouring with both hands holding shakers in front of you, and with slightly raised arms. You want to leave enough room for your right hand to move a little higher.

A man throwing a cocktail between halves of the shaker.

Begin pouring the gin mixture through the strainer in your right hand into the empty shaker in your left, aiming for a middle point of the shaker in your left, and “pull down” the empty shaker as it fills up, pulling away from the hand straining the mix in the shaker in your left hand. Your right hand pulls upwards slightly, but not as much as your left is pulling down.

Pull your left hand down as much as possible, allowing gravity to do its thing, and catch the liquid being poured from on high.

Throwing a cocktail between a shaker
Simply pour the mixture back into the shaker filled with ice, and repeat the process several times.

Holding the strainer at an angle also gives you enough room to easily pour the mix back in without spilling, for the next throw.

A man pouring liquor between a shaker.

Once you see the mixture foaming, it’s ready. Strain mixture into a chilled glass. Squeeze lemon peel over the glass and drop it into the beverage.

a man straining a cocktail
Once you become comfortable with throwing, you can add flourishes, whipping the shaker in your left hand to the left, and following with the right, for example.

A man standing behind a martini.

Arnd's pro tips: use a leather stamp to save time cutting out consistently shaped circles of lemon peel. Also, try using frozen spirits: there is no dilution from ice and you can further control the dilution. Instead, add 1/2 centiliter of very cold water to the mixture in the beginning when adding your other ingredients.