Are Those Tiny Cocktail Straws For Stirring Or Sipping?

Straws are already controversial enough, especially as diners learn the dirty truth about plastic straws' environmental impacts. But there's another straw-related debate we don't talk about enough. One we might encounter every time we're at our favorite dive or hotel or airport bar. When a bartender hands us a drink with a super-skinny plastic straw, what are we supposed to do? There are plenty of mistakes people make at bars, and it's not always clear whether we're supposed to actually drink out of the straws or if doing so makes us look goofy.

When it comes to other cold beverages like milkshakes, using a straw might actually help your drink taste better. Chilly temperatures dull our ability to perceive volatile organic compounds that help give food its flavor. However, using a straw could help the drink warm up slightly and aerate in our mouths, which in turn can animate our senses.

Luckily, when it comes to alcoholic drinks, the science aligns with etiquette rules. Turns out, using those straws for both stirring and sipping can help your night out go more smoothly.

The real truth about those skinny cocktail straws

As if to underscore their dual purpose, restaurant wholesalers call the tiny black utensils "sip stirrers," "sip straws," and even "plastic stirrers." Bartenders say there are plenty of valid reasons to use them, and you might feel better if you do.

If your drink is served on the rocks or with ice, it'll inevitably dilute the drink a bit as the ice melts. Giving your drink a good mix every so often can help it stay well-blended with the additional water without throwing off the balance too much.

And don't be afraid to drink through the straws, either. Drinking alcohol quickly can make you feel more intoxicated quicker, which is also the reason why slurping a cocktail through a regular straw can speed up its effects. But because these straws are skinny, they help control the flow so you don't drink too quickly. This is also why some bartenders serve drinks with two straws together: For thicker drinks or ones with crushed ice, you can drink out of both straws together to sip at the right pace.

So by giving you one or two teeny black straws with your cocktail, your bartender is not sneakily scamming you. They're helping you out. You can rest assured that how ever you choose to use the straw is just fine.