Stirred Set in Copper, Copyright A Bar Above

Stirred Set in Copper, Copyright A Bar Above

Thanks to James Bond’s specification, we all know the age-old debate about the shaken vs stirred martini. But just because he greatly influenced cocktail culture, he’s not necessarily correct in asking for his martini “shaken, not stirred.”

Which brings us to an extremely common question amongst cocktail enthusiasts: When do you shake a cocktail, and when do you stir it? Does it even matter?

The short answer: Yes, it matters. And which technique you choose depends on the type of mixed drink you’re making. 

Note/Disclosure: Before I go into details, make sure to check out our shop for all your shaking and stirring needs. We have kits that make it easy for you to mix up your cocktail ingredients both ways, and I’ll be linking to our products throughout this article. 

And if you want to hear Chris talk about the rule of thumb regarding this quandary, check out this super old video.

Copyright A Bar Above

Copyright A Bar Above

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHAKING AND STIRRING 

I mean, if you get right down to it, all alcoholic drinks can be shaken. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they all should be. And not every cocktail can be stirred!

While I wouldn’t say this is exactly a hard and fast rule, the general consensus is this:

  • Shake drinks that have more “cloudy ingredients,” which will have varying densities and need to be thrown together more aggressively. Think “complex drinks.”
  • Stir drinks that contain mostly spirits, which share similar density. Think of a booze-forward classic cocktail with few ingredients (like the martini).

By these standards, the classic martini should be stirred (sorry, Mr. Bond).  Of course, both shaking and stirring will achieve a cold, diluted, and balanced drink. But there is an added texture that comes from shaking– which is ideal in cocktails with things like juices, fruit, and cream liqueurs.

Copyright A Bar Above

Copyright A Bar Above

COCKTAILS TO SHAKE

When a cocktail recipe calls for cream, egg whites, fresh juice, and muddled ingredients, always use a cocktail shaker. You can grab our Boston shaker for these drinks with a more “complex” flavor profile. To blend all these ingredients of different densities together, you need to give them strong, continuous shaking.

Ex.: The First Word, tiki drinks, and margaritas

The finished drink will be a little more cloudy than if you had stirred it, and it will include some ice shards. It will also have a slightly frothy texture (or very frothy if you’re making an egg cocktail) after shaking. 

A decent shake of 12-15 seconds will also create additional dilution, as you’re breaking up the ice cubes quickly. You’d have to stir for about two minutes to get the same level of dilution– but most stirred drinks are only mixed for up to 45 seconds. 

In my experience, shaking your ingredients with ice in a metal tin also makes your drink colder, as it chills more quickly this way.

Note: Don’t shake carbonated ingredients, such as soda water. If a shaken drink calls for something carbonated, add it in and stir after shaking everything else. You don’t want to cause an explosion in your shaker tin!

Copyright A Bar Above

Copyright A Bar Above

WHEN TO STIR COCKTAILS

Spirit-forward cocktails should be stirred in a mixing glass using a bar spoon. These contain mostly spirits or other “clear” liquids, rather than murkier ingredients like fresh citrus juices or liqueurs. 

Ex.: The classic martini and the Manhattan

Stirring will result in a more crystal-clear cocktail and very smooth texture, giving you a clear, spirit-strong cocktail that isn’t quite as diluted as it would be from shaking.

Copyright A Bar Above

Copyright A Bar Above

ENDING THE SHAKE/STIR ARGUMENT FOR GOOD… MAYBE

There you have it. It’s pretty straightforward if you think of the type of ingredients you’re mixing. Most drinks will be shaken, but those spirit-driven cocktails really should be stirred properly. 

So, did you learn something new today? Do you totally disagree and stand by James Bond’s shaken martini? Let us know in the comments, or join us in our Facebook community group to discuss your shaken-stirred philosophy. Until then… Cheers!

Melanie Tornroth

Melanie Tornroth

A former English teacher, Melanie optimistically embraces the struggle that is work-from-home parenthood as the in-house writer for A Bar Above. When not responding to “Mom” and writing articles for ABA, she also runs Goodnickels Photography, loves to cuddle her cats, and is perfecting the art of keeping her pandemic “fermentation babies” alive.