Shaken or Stirred? When to Shake or Stir a Cocktail

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Shaken or Stirred

Shaken or Stirred

Your cocktail ingredients will be the major factor in whether it is to be shaken or stirred, but you always have your own personal preference.

You, as the bartender, will need to decide how you want your finished drink to appear. Take the classic dry martini for an example.

Many people order it shaken, and many order it stirred. Either way is perfectly acceptable, but the appearance will be completely different. If the martini is shaken, it will no longer have the silky texture from gently stirring and mixing the gin and dry vermouth.

No matter how you make your mixed drinks – shaken or stirred, you will need to have the correct bar equipment on hand.


Shaken Cocktails

How to Shake a Cocktail

Knowing how to shake a cocktail is an art and involves a discussion just as the question “shaken or stirred” does.

Keep a Firm Grip

No matter the type of shaker you are using, the number one rule is keeping a firm grip on it. Nothing is more embarrassing than letting your shaker cup fly out of your hand and spill everywhere, or worse, hit someone with it. Shaker cups can get quite slippery, especially ones made out of tin or copper, as they will condense as the drink becomes ice cold.

High-Quality Ice

High-quality ice is a must when making any cocktail. Using subpar ice will not only take away from the overall appearance of your drink, but it can also impact your shaker. See our article on cocktail ice types to learn more.

Low-quality ice will tend to break while shaking, and that can either dilute your finished drink, or small ice chips could pass through the strainer and end up in the finished drink.

Shake Time

How long you shake a drink will vary depending on the cocktail, but a good 10-second over-the-shoulder shake is a general rule in bartending.

Smile

This shaking tip can not be overstated. Bartending is an art form, and people like to be entertained. So put on a show while shaking and smile constantly.

Which Cocktail Types Should Be Shaken?

Cocktails that should be shaken contain dairy, cream liqueurs, fruit juices, eggs, syrups, or sour mix. By this list, you can see that it is anything that is of a heavier consistency.

Both shaken or stirred cocktails will get chilled in the process of making it, but a shaken drink will get ice-cold. There are many types of shaker cups available, and we explain them in detail in our Cocktail Shaker Types article.
Any shaken drinks that involve adding soda (like our Blackberry Moscow Mule) must be shaken before the carbonated beverage is added; otherwise, the drink will come out flat.

List of Best Shaken Cocktails

  • Painkiller: This tropical drink combines Pussers Rum with Coconut cream, pineapple juice, and orange juice. It must be shaken to achieve the correct mixture. See our Pain Killer Recipe here.
  • Margarita: Margaritas contain tequila, triple sec, and lime juice. Shaking this mixture will ensure that they get mixed completely. Obviously, this would only pertain to a Margarita on the rocks and not frozen ones that use a blender.
  • Cosmopolitan: A Cosmopolitan containing vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and lime juice makes it a classic shaken cocktail.
  • Daiquiri: All Daiquiris contain some version of fruit juice and will always need to be shaken to achieve the right blend and texture.

Stirred Cocktails

How to Stir a Cocktail

Technique and speed are requirements when making stirred cocktails. Almost all classic cocktails require stirring, so you will want to invest in a long-handled bar spoon.

To stir a mixed drink properly, stir in a circular motion (not side to side). This will prevent excess dilution, splashing, or spillage. Remember that you want to mix and not be overly aggressive. Learning how to stir only by moving your fingers will greatly help in this.

Stirring Time

The length of time will depend on which cocktail you are making. Some drinks will require only 15-20 seconds while others may take up to a min. Don’t over-stir your cocktail as it will cause the ice to melt, defeating the whole purpose of stirring a drink.

Ice Quality

Ice quality is just as important when stirring as shaken.

Which Cocktail Types Should be Stirred?

Stirred cocktails are mixed in the cocktail glass they are served in, or drinks that are composed only of spirits (Whiskey, Bourbon, and Gin), tonics, and bitters.

How aggressive a drink is stirred should be is a major factor in whether it is “shaken or stirred.” Stirring a cocktail to combine flavors in a less aggressive way of mixing than shaking. In a stirred drink, you minimize the amount of ice that melts. This allows less ice water to mix in with your ingredients and will keep the drink from diluting.

List of Best Stirred Cocktails

  • Old Fashioned: Classic stirred drink that is a combination of high-end bourbon and sugar.
  • Negroni: A simple cocktail that should be stirred containing sweet vermouth, Campari, and gin.
  • Manhattan: Even though some people like to shake this cocktail, a Manhattan should be stirred, as it contains only whiskey, vermouth, and bitters. Shaking it may make it appear cloudy.

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