Cocktail culture can be intimidating. You see a lot of hip bars with even hipper bartenders shaking and stirring cocktails inside. There are spirits you’ve never heard of, obscure liqueurs and strange amari lining the shelves and populating the cocktail menu. And let’s be honest, sometimes you smile and nod like you’re in the know, but you’re not. We’ve certainly, secretly, looked something up on a phone before ordering, rather than just ask.
Luckily, bartenders are a friendly bunch that, by and large, love to share and discuss their craft. That, and this is a post about stirring vs shaking cocktails, so you’re already on the train to cocktail knowledge-ville. You might even start spontaneously sprouting tattoos and a vintage style haircut by the end of this article.
Maybe an important question to understanding when to stir vs shake is why stir or shake, ie: what does stirring do that shaking doesn’t, and vice versa.
If you’ve never seen a stirred cocktail poured before, try it yourself. A properly stirred cocktail should look viscous when it comes out of the mixing glass, almost velvety. And that’s exactly how your first sip should feel: velvety. Stirring allows ingredients that readily blend together to do so, it dilutes the cocktail, making it more palatable, and (not least of all) it chills your drink as well.
Compare this to a shaken cocktail (think margarita or classic daiquiri). These should pour out looking a little carbonated. You might see ice chips floating around from shaking those cubes so violently. Shaking creates that affect by breaking up the ice, chilling the cocktail more, while also sloshing all of that delicious boozey mixture around and aerating it, making for a frothy sipper rather than a velvety one. Also, perhaps most importantly, shaking mixes certain ingredients together that, if stirred, would separate by the time you drink them (citrus juice, for example). Also, please shake egg white cocktails. No one wants stirred eggs in a drink. Ever.
So there you have it, you home-bar hipster you. Stir things made up of mostly or entirely spirits: manhattans, martinis, negronis, etc. And shake things that incorporate juices: margaritas, daiquiris, cosmos, etc. If you’re ever not sure how to prepare a specific cocktail, use that above rule of thumb or hell, just google it to be sure. A stirred cocktail that should be shaken, or vice versa, will make you sad in your soul, and no one wants a sad soul. You want a happy, cocktail sipping soul. So cheers to your soul, and to the delicious cocktails you’re sure to make at home.