Shaking: The Hows and Whats

8th January 2024

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A cocktail shaker's basic function is to quickly cool the drink by mixing it with ice. But professionals know that shaking a drink is about much more than cooling it down. A mixologist's shake is a bit of theater, entertainment for his customers and a way to stamp his personal style on his mixing technique.

The Basics

Fill the cocktail shaker two-thirds to three-quarters of the way full with ice cubes, not crushed ice. Pour the ingredients in in descending order of alcohol content. Place the top onto the shaker and tap it down with the heel of your hand to ensure a good seal between the two parts of the shaker. Each shake must continue for 15 seconds or until frost develops on the outside of the shaker.

The Hard Shakes

Hard shakes use rapid, short movements to achieve maximum cooling over the shortest amount of time. Hard shakes are the most efficient mixing shakes. Hard shakes are ideal for cocktails with heavy ingredients like cream, egg whites or syrups. Hard shakes are also ideal for cocktails that you want to serve slightly frothy and aerated. Because the ice takes the most abuse during a hard shake, the bigger the ice cubes the better.

The Overhead Shake

This hard shake requires confidence in your seal or you'll end up wearing the cocktail in your hair. Hold each end of the cocktail shaker in the palm of each hand with your fingers gripping the sides where they fall naturally. Hold the shaker horizontally overhead and shake it rapidly front to back. This technique is also ideal if the bar is busy and you have to allow room for other passing bartenders.

The Japanese Hard Shake

This hard shake is considered the best among the old school seasoned professionals. Hold each end of the cocktail shaker in the palm of each hand with your fingers gripping the sides where they fall naturally. Hold the cocktail shaker at eye level. Hold it vertically for a classic Japanese hard shake. Hold it at a 45 degree angle for the Ginza hard shake. Shake the cocktail shaker up and down rapidly with little range of motion. While you shake, move the shaker slowly up and down between your breast bone and the top of your head.

The Soft Shake

The soft shake is mellower than the hard shake. Instead of short movements that shake the ice as hard as possible, soft shakes move just enough to hit the ice on either end of the shaker. Soft shakes are ideal for cocktails with light ingredients that could be stirred but are preferred shaken.

The Bull

This is a big soft shake with an aggressive personality and a lot of flair. Hold each end of the cocktail shaker in the palm of each hand with your fingers gripping the sides where they fall naturally. Hold the cocktail shaker vertically. Lift it above your head. Swing it down to belly button level. Repeat as quickly as you can manage while maintaining a large range of motion.

The One-Hander

This soft shake requires a lot of confidence in your seal much like the overhead shake. Grip the shaker around the seal where the top and bottom of the shaker mix. Hold the shaker at a 45 degree angle. Shake the shaker gently back and forth using your wrist to create the shaking motion. Keep the movement gentle, just enough to hear the ice move inside.

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Creating your own syrups and infusions can dramatically elevate your cocktails. Homemade simple syrup is just the start; you can infuse it with flavors like vanilla, herbs, spices, or even chili to add a unique twist to your drinks. Infusing spirits with fruits, herbs, or spices can also create personalized and complex flavors that you can’t buy off the shelf.

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