What It Really Means To 'Throw' A Cocktail (And Why You Should Try It)

You've tried your drinks shaken and stirred — but have you ever had a thrown cocktail? Also called "rolling," throwing cocktails has a rich history that spans the globe. In some form or another, this long pour technique has been used with alcohol for centuries, long before ordering a cocktail at your neighborhood bar was a common phenomenon. This is a bartending practice that is quite entertaining and a true treat to watch from a barstool. But in addition to looking really cool, there are actual scientific reasons behind throwing cocktails.

Throwing cocktails had largely fallen out of practice in recent decades, but many bartenders are bringing back the practice. And it doesn't have to be restricted to the professionals — this is a good trick to work into your home bar portfolio as well. You may find that the art of cocktail throwing brings taste and texture to your favorite drink that you won't want to live without.

History and origins of cocktail throwing

There are many different ideas of where the art of throwing came from. One possibility is that it came from China during the 10th to 13th centuries. Another is that the Greeks and Egyptians were throwing alcohol in ancient times. Then, in the 1600s, the practice became part of Spanish alcohol culture. But in terms of cocktails, the first recorded reference to a thrown mixed drink comes from San Francisco in the 1840s.

Wherever the method originated, one thing has remained consistent: The reasoning behind the technique. Through multiple long pours, throwing aerates the beverage. You've likely seen people swirl their wine glasses to aerate their drink — throwing has much the same purpose. Especially when you have an ingredient such as vermouth or sherry in your cocktail, aerating the drink will release aromatics and result in a fuller flavor. It adds the perfect-sized bubbles to your drink, creating a textural element you can't achieve in the same way by stirring or shaking.

How to throw a cocktail

You will need a cocktail shaker set if you want to throw a cocktail. Specifically, one large tin, a small one, and a small strainer, such as a Julep strainer. Start with all of your cocktail ingredients and ice in the large tin and place the Julep strainer on top. Hold one tin in each hand and lift them up high.

Begin pouring the cocktail from the large tin to the small one, holding the pouring hand in place and dropping your catching hand as you pour. This lengthens the pour and by the time the entire cocktail has transferred, one hand should be completely elevated and the other lowered to your waist or hips. Transfer the cocktail back to the large tin and repeat the process a few times.

The professionals make this look very graceful but don't worry if your form isn't perfect right away, just keep practicing. Then you can serve up the drink as you would normally, knowing that it is now delectably aerated.