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Shaken or Stirred? When to Shake or Stir Your Cocktails

Posted by Megan Savage on

POV: You’re in a bar. You order a martini. The charming bartender asks, ‘shaken, or stirred?’ You’re flustered. Not because of the charming bartender, but because in reality you have no idea why you would want shaken or stirred.

 Don’t worry: we’re here to give you the rundown on when to shake and when to stir your drinks so you can be the charming bartender and can confidently let your patron know, ‘it’s shaken, not stirred.’


When to Shake and When to Stir a Cocktail

 Cocktails are shaken when they include other ingredients aside from the spirit, such as fruit juices, dairy, or citrus. Shaking them helps them perfectly mix together and also chills them to the same temperature.

 On top of this, shaking also allows the drink to aerate and become light and fluffy. A great example of a shaken drink would be a gin sour. Shaking the drink allows for the egg whites to froth (recipe for this is down below).

 Heads up! Only shake flat ingredients. If your drink involves ingredients such as soda or other carbonated ingredients, add them into the glass, not the shaker.


How to Shake A Cocktail

 The trick to shaking a cocktail is to shake it like it owes you money: vigorously. The most classic method of shaking is the Piston method, which includes shaking the shaker from front to back in a diagonal direction.

 Imagine the ice cubes are one unit, bringing them to the top to the bottom of the shaker with each shake. For best results, make sure to use fresh, high quality ice to prevent chipping (which ultimately leads to a watered down drink).

 For most cocktails, shake for a count of about 5 Mississippi’s. However if your goal is to froth the drink – a sour for example – you’ll want to shake for as long as you can.

 When pouring into your glass, make sure to use a strainer to keep out any ice shards that may have broken off go into your drink to have a smooth, light drink without the crunch.


When to Stir

 Stirring cocktails is best for distilled spirit-based drinks. This is because it minimizes the dilution of ice. Thinking back to our Ice Cube 101 blog post, when dealing with cocktails that are made up of primarily spirits, you want to reduce watering down your drink as much as possible.

 With spirit-based drinks, stirring the drink also delivers a mouthfeel that’s heavier and silkier, instead of the light and fluffiness of a shaken drink, while still mixing in the additional ingredients and chilling the drink.


How to Stir

 Add cubes either into your mixing glass or directly into your cocktail glass, and pour in the ingredients. If you have one, use a bar spoon to stir in a circular motion. The long handle of the bar spoon will allow you to have better range of motion and keep the mouth of the spoon along the edge of the glass/jigger.

 Here are two examples of gin-based drinks that are best shaken, or stirred:

Stir it up: Gin Martini

Yes, Mr James Bond prefers a shaken martini, but unless you want ice shards in your drink, it’s recommended that you stir a martini.

 What you need:

 In a mixing glass filled with ice cubes, add the gin and dry vermouth, and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a martini glass, and garnish with either a lemon twist, or olives.

 Dirty Martini: To add a kick to your Martini, add a splash of the olive brine into the mixing glass. This will add a salty, olive-y flavour.

 Shake it: Gin Sour

 What you need:

 How to do it:

Add all of the ingredients into a shaker. Close the lid, and do a dry shake (no ice) for a count of about 5 Mississippi’s. Then, add ice to the shaker and shake it up! The dry shake helps the egg froth, and the second shake chills in the drink.

Serve in a glass, either with ice or without. As the egg froth bubbles, drizzle on Angostura Bitters to remove the eggy smell.

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