One of the many questions facing a novice home bartender is when to shake and when to stir a cocktail. Find out the basic rules in this essential guide to shaking and stirring cocktails.
When to Stir
Stirring a cocktail with ice chills the drink while providing a little less dilution compared to shaking. This technique is suitable for cocktails that are spirit-forward and have clear ingredients such liqueurs and fortified wines. Examples include the Martini, the Manhattan and the Negroni. When an opaque component is added, the cocktail should be shaken to better incorporate the ingredients.
James Bond may have preferred his Martinis shaken but cocktail historian and Sipsmith Master Distiller Jared Brown favours throwing a Martini (see below).
When to Shake
Shaking a cocktail breaks up the ice, adds dilution and chills it much faster than stirring. Cocktails that include an opaque ingredient such as citrus, juice, syrup, egg white, herbs, spices or cream should be shaken.
Shaking a cocktail with a citrus component such as the Dark Rum Daiquiri aerates the drink and gives it a good mouthfeel. If the drink has egg white or aquafaba such as the Morning Glory Fizz, shaking the cocktail results in a good foam on top and provides a silky mouthfeel. Shaking a drink with cream such as the Ramos Gin Fizz not only incorporates air bubbles into the liquid but makes it light with a good froth.
For Carbonated Drinks
If a cocktail with opaque ingredients such as citrus juice is to be carbonated, that is topped with a sparkling ingredient such as soda water, ginger beer or champagne as in the French 75, it should always be shaken first before adding carbonation. In this case, the cocktail should be shaken less to avoid too much dilution which the carbonated ingredient provides.
Throwing a Cocktail
Cocktail throwing is a technique that involves using two vessels such as shaker tins and is done by pouring the ingredients from one container to another, one held above the other starting as low as possible then increasing in height. Throwing a cocktail aerates the drink and adds tiny air bubbles which impart texture to the drink. The Bloody Mary is one such cocktail that benefits from the throwing technique.
Like many rules, there are exceptions. In summary, when contemplating when to shake and when to stir a cocktail, if it’s spirit-forward with clear ingredients, stir it. If it’s opaque, shake it.
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