Shaken or Stirred?

The argument about whether to shake or stir cocktails has been an extremely hot topic for years – especially among novel-nosed bookworms and moviegoers. Bartenders, on the other hand, seem to have pretty much developed a method that they tend to stick to despite the latest trend on the best seller list or at the box office.
If you’ve ever looked through a cocktail recipe book, you’ve probably noticed that each recipe comes with specific instructions as to whether it should be shaken or stirred. Are these instructions a random evolutionary result of a big bang that took place behind a bar hundreds of millions of years ago, or could there possibly be some kind of technique at play here?

The answer to this age old question is that there are definite rules about what kinds of drinks should be shaken and what kinds should be stirred. Just like in any art form, however, rules are occasionally broken with a colourful exception or two, so despite what you learn from this article, if the recipe says to do the opposite, it’s probably right. If you are the adventurous or entrepreneurial type, feel free to experiment with your ingredients and mixing styles and possibly even create your own exceptions to the general rules stated below.

As a rule of thumb, cocktails and other mixed drinks are traditionally shaken if they contain eggs, cream, or fruit juice. When a mixed drink is shaken, hundreds of thousands of tiny air bubbles are introduced into its depths. Cocktails containing fruit juice will come out of their shaking with a frothy layer of fun on top. Mixed drinks that contain cream or egg whites will also come away with a layer of foam on top that is similar in appearance to the surface of a lemon meringue pie. Of course, it goes without saying that any cocktails containing carbonated water or soda should not usually be shaken, as this will only cause them to lose their bubbles.

Drinks that are shaken are usually shaken with ice shards or cubes. Shaking a drink with ice tends to lower the drink's temperature at a much faster rate than simply leaving it to sit on the rocks. Once the mixing is completed, the ice may either be left in the drink or strained out.

Cocktails that are most commonly shaken include the Margarita, the Daiquiri, the Whiskey Sour, the Cosmopolitan, and the Ramos Gin Fizz. In the case of the latter, the obligatory club soda is only added after the thorough shaking.

The rule of thumb for stirring states that drinks that are either made completely from alcoholic ingredients or that contain only light mixers should always be stirred. Traditionalists insist that shaking only bruises the spirit of the drink. In this kind of drink, clarity is considered classy, and stirring helps to avoid the appearance of air bubbles and ice shards that might tarnish the clarity of the drink.

Manhattans and Martinis are good examples of drinks that should be stirred not shaken - unless you're James Bond!

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Bartender's top tip

Like cooking, making cocktails is a culinary art that benefits from tasting and adjusting. Before serving, taste your cocktail with a straw or spoon and adjust if necessary. Maybe it needs a touch more sweetness, a bit more acidity to brighten it up, or a dilution adjustment. Personalize each drink to your liking, and don't be afraid to stray from the recipe to create something that suits your taste perfectly.

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