Shaking: Fast and Efficient
The shaking method of cocktail mixing has a lot going for it. For one, shaking makes quick work of combining ingredients; and it chills a drink fast without much dilution.
You don't need to shake long, either. Just a few quick jolts are enough to bring the temperature down dramatically. In fact, after about 10 seconds of dedicated shaking, the cocktail is as cold as it’s likely to get, and any additional shaking becomes mostly a workout. Just be sure to use lots of ice, so the drink chills efficiently.
Some candidates for a quick, strenuous shake:
The Martini: Shake versus Stir
A shaken martini is indeed a crisp, cold wonder, with bite and an icy snap. However, shaking a martini will also cloud it. And a murky martini can be a real deal breaker for certain aesthetics-minded martini drinkers, who demand absolute see-through clarity from their drink. For them, a gentle stir is what’s required.
A stirred martini is clear as an alpine stream and has a soft, silky smooth texture, but it’s not as bracingly cold as the shaken martini. There are tradeoffs. But this is an opportunity for experimentation. Try them both ways, see what you like.
All of this holds true for a whiskey Manhattan, as well. Shaking a Manhattan puts a froth on it. Some prefer it that way; others not so much. Do what you will.
Shake or stir these cocktails:
Shake, Shake, Shake
Of course, the clarity issue becomes a moot point when you’re mixing fruit juices (fresh squeezed or otherwise) into a cocktail. Regardless of whether you stir or shake, the drink will be a little cloudy. So give cocktails calling for juice a quick, vigorous shake to mix the ingredients up thoroughly.
Of course, there are times when you absolutely need to shake a cocktail, like when you’re combining raw egg with juice and cream to make a Ramos Gin Fizz. This drink demands a lot of muscle to blend the ingredients into something velvety soft.
Shake these like you mean it:
Stir it Up
These classic cocktails are generally not shaken. All they require is a quick whirl with a mixing spoon.
Give 'em a spin with a spoon:
Ice, Ice, Baby
If you’re serious about your cocktails, give some thought to your ice. Fresh ice made from purified water tastes better than fridge-generated ice that’s been hanging around in the freezer for several weeks. In fact, the best ice for cocktails is the ice you prepare the morning before you mix your drinks. Start with filtered water. Bring it to a boil in a sauce pan, then cool it down, and freeze the water in silicone trays. (If you want to be doubly sure, allow the boiled water to return to room temperature, then give it a second boil.)
If you’re not using your cocktail ice right away, store it in sealable plastic bags so it doesn't pick up any stray odors.
When neither stirring nor shaking will do, break out the blender and plenty of ice.
Pour and Serve
And finally, when you don’t have a shaker, a spoon, or a blender, here are a few drinks that require nothing but a glass to sip them from.
The Spot for Food and Drink
See Sips Central, our friendly guide for pairing food with beer, wine, and cocktails.