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On Stirring & Cooking Your Cocktails


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#31 adegiulio

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Posted 12 August 2007 - 07:19 PM

Customers around here think the sign of a well made martini are the little chunks of ice floating on top.  Seems like it's completely backwards, but when in Rome...

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I get that a lot too...weird

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I once had a customer at the store where I used to work ask me if we carried "the tool bartenders use to get the little pieces of ice on the top of martinis."

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I was watching a "reality" show on Bravo today. It's a show that is a "behind the scenes" look of a resort in Palm Springs (The Parker is what I think it's called).. Anyway, in the episode I saw, a high profile travel agent was there doing a tour/inspection of the property. She was having dinner at one of the restaurants and the hotel and RAVED to the bartender about how her drink had a lot of ice chips floating on top. This is an "expert" that is guiding people as to what is good service and not good service.

what the hell?? :wacko: :blink: :huh:

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Maybe it was a margarita... :biggrin:
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#32 Lan4Dawg

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 06:03 PM

seldomly are cocktails shaken for several simple reasons:
1. James Bond ordered his cocktails "shaken not stirred".
2. Tom Cruise' movie "Cocktail" showed all of the drinks being shaken.
3. Shaking is much more fun than stirring.
4. People think that is how they are supposed to be made.
5 Shaking makes a lot of noise and looks nice so bar patrons pay attention to you while you are doing it.
6. It is hard to impress the good looking blonde at the end of the bar by stirring a cocktail.
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#33 Alex

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 07:00 PM

Ask Dr. Knowledge, from The Boston Globe

While the detailed chemistry is not fully understood, shaken martinis are much more effective than either gin or vermouth alone at deactivating hydrogen peroxide, and about twice as effective when shaken as opposed to being stirred.


Gene Weingarten, writing in The Washington Post about online news stories and their readers' comments: "I basically like 'comments,' though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It's as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots."

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#34 slkinsey

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Posted 14 August 2007 - 08:38 AM

You can read the paper here:

Trevithick CC, Chartrand MM, Wahlman J, Rahman F, Hirst M, Trevithick JR. Shaken, not stirred: bioanalytical study of the antioxidant activities of martinis. BMJ 1999;319:1600-1602
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#35 jmfangio

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 02:19 PM

There's an article in today's LA Times on stirring vs. shaking, and the movement towards stirring.

THE making of a martini raises so many alluring questions: Does shaking spoil the taste of the martini? Does stirring get the drink cold enough? Should the bartender put on an exciting show, or should he mix with masterly nonchalance? (There's a delicious word for that quality: sprezzatura.)

For a century or more, the shake-or-stir debate has raged among martini drinkers. But lately it seems that the current is running strongly in the stirring direction.

When the Culver City-area branch of Father's Office opens next year, don't bother asking for a shaken martini. "What's a

shaker? We don't own a shaker," owner Sang Yoon says. "We don't even have a place to put one. We've designed the place that way."


"Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other." - W. Somerset Maugham

#36 jsmeeker

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 03:02 PM

Still not seeing any one stir. Shaking really hard with really small ice seems to be the norm at bars. Makes for a weak Manhattan.

Although I will say that not having the capability to shake is about as wrong. Shaking IS proper procedure for many cocktails. Is Father's Office simply not going to prepare those? Or will they prepare them as incorrectly as other places prepare things that should be stirried?

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#37 johnder

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Posted 26 December 2007 - 04:25 PM

Hmm no shaker eh? Does that mean I can't have a daiquri, or a margarita?
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#38 Scotttos

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 04:40 AM

What about egg drinks? They gonna stir my pisco sour : )

#39 adegiulio

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 05:04 AM

What about egg drinks?  They gonna stir my pisco sour : )

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Maybe they have a whisk?? :biggrin:
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#40 lostmyshape

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 10:50 AM

"What's a shaker? We don't own a shaker," owner Sang Yoon says. "We don't even have a place to put one. We've designed the place that way."

that's the stupidest thing i've ever heard!

If the cocktail includes juice, cream, or eggs it should be shaken, if it is spiritus, stired.  A drink shaken is effervesent, frothy, alive with bubbles that dance on your tounge.  A stired drink should be slick, chill, liquid velvet, viscous and calming to  the spirit.  The exceptions to this rule are the Stinger, and the Tombstone.

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the above is what i always go by. this dallying over how cold or how diluted a drink is when stirred or shaken just seems silly to me. if you use good ice and technique, your drink will be properly cold and diluted either way.

i just go by two hard rules: shake if
1) required to combine an ingredient (e.g., a thick simple syrup)
2) one needs foam (usually via egg white).

otherwise it's just preference for mouthfeel... and either is just as valid as the other. and although the traditional way to make a martini is stirred, who needs tradition every time (and to the point of not even having a shaker is dumb). i like my gin and vermouth (and bitters) slick and oily - stirred - but my wife prefers it alive with bubbles - shaken.

although i'd love to see them whisk that pisco sour!

#41 slkinsey

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 11:02 AM

I think the whole reaction saying "oh my god! what are those idiots at Father's Office going to do when someone orders a Ramos Fizz?!" is a bit misplaced. Like many articles on cocktail developments, and especially those by the LA Times, this one simply asks the wrong person. I don't know if there are any serious cocktailian bars in LA along the lines of what exists in NYC and a few cities around the country, but regardless... Father's Office in LA does not seem to be one. From what I can tell (web site here) it's a medium-upscale pub well known for burgers that is focused mostly on beer, of which there are 30 on tap (cocktails aren't even mentioned on the web site). One is not surprised to learn that "Trivial Pursuit" is a popular passtime there.

What this means is that the guy from Father's Office was happy to get the press mention, but the fact is that they are not a serious cocktail spot and they don't seem to be set up to make any cocktails that one would be unhappy to have stirred. I imagine they do 99% of their (presumably relatively meager) cocktail business in highballs, rocks drinks and the occasional Martini or Manhattan -- none of which requires a shaker -- and I'm quite sure there isn't an egg white to be found behind the bar.


ETA: Considering that Father's Office doesn't seem to be much of a serious cocktailian bar, or even cocktail-focused establishment, it's interesting to me that this is the second LA Times article on the subject of cocktails that quotes Sang Yoon of Father's Office to appear within a month (the other being this article on cocktail "rules"). I'm wondering if Mr. Yoon has some in with the LAT staff. :hmmm:

Edited by slkinsey, 27 December 2007 - 11:09 AM.

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#42 lostmyshape

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 11:35 AM

fair enough... however, being quoted in an article about cocktails with such an intense opinion sort of implies you're serious about cocktails.

however, many reporters have "go-to" sources when it comes to a subject. it sounds like Yoon is the LA Times food writer's "bar source." of course Yoon will probably answer any question the LA Times asks, because it's great publicity for his bar.

Edited by lostmyshape, 27 December 2007 - 11:35 AM.


#43 jmfangio

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Posted 27 December 2007 - 04:25 PM

I think the whole reaction saying "oh my god!  what are those idiots at Father's Office going to do when someone orders a Ramos Fizz?!" is a bit misplaced.  Like many articles on cocktail developments, and especially those by the LA Times, this one simply asks the wrong person.  I don't know if there are any serious cocktailian bars in LA along the lines of what exists in NYC and a few cities around the country, but regardless... Father's Office in LA does not seem to be one.


All true...sadly, LA is not a great cocktail town (though I did just find a new bartender at Campanile who looks promising). The original Father's Office in Santa Monica is a great place - they were one of the first micro-brew pubs in LA, and they have fantastic food - and I look forward to trying out the new location, which is much, much closer to me. But, Yoon was probably far from the best person to go to on this subject. I wouldn't call up Dale DeGroff for an article on sous vide.
"Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other." - W. Somerset Maugham

#44 Chris Amirault

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 12:03 PM

Stirring technique questions.

Had some fine stirred drinks at PDT and Death & Co a few days ago. I noted varying rest times for stirred drinks. What's the guideline?

Some bartenders stir only in one direction, using the spoon to create a vortex of ice and liquid and therefore not jostling the ice much. Others place the spoon in the middle and stir by rotating the spoon back-and-forth, using the twisted edge on the spoon, and therfore jostling the ice far more. Thoughts?
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#45 plattetude

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 07:56 AM

ETA:  Considering that Father's Office doesn't seem to be much of a serious cocktailian bar, or even cocktail-focused establishment, it's interesting to me that this is the second LA Times article on the subject of cocktails that quotes Sang Yoon of Father's Office to appear within a month (the other being this article on cocktail "rules").  I'm wondering if Mr. Yoon has some in with the LAT staff.  :hmmm:

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I was assuming from the context of the article that the new location may have more of a focus on cocktails than the original location. Maybe they're trying to catch the cocktail buzz to help in the pre-opening buzz....

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#46 slkinsey

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 08:47 AM

Had some fine stirred drinks at PDT and Death & Co a few days ago. I noted varying rest times for stirred drinks. What's the guideline?

Stirring and resting time will depend on a number of unique factors, most prominently among them: temperature of mixing vessel, composition of mixing vessel, temperature of ice, size and shape of ice, amount of ice relative to volume of spirits. By and large, what you want to look for when stirring a drink is dilution.

Some bartenders stir only in one direction, using the spoon to create a vortex of ice and liquid and therefore not jostling the ice much. Others place the spoon in the middle and stir by rotating the spoon back-and-forth, using the twisted edge on the spoon, and therfore jostling the ice far more. Thoughts?

As a general rule of thumb, I find that bartenders who are violent with the ice when stirring a drink are not particularly invested in high-calibre mixology. This would include those who like to "stir" by twisting the spoon between thumb and forefinger while plunging it up and down in the ice. This is likely to result in a drink that is perhaps not as cloudy and aerated as a shaken drink, but not as clear and silky as a slowly stirred drink either. "Half-cloudy" I'd call these drinks.

If one is going to take the trouble to stir a drink, why not do it with the proper affect? As Dave Wondrich points out in Imbibe!, the vogue for stirring developed as the result a desire on the part of bartenders to showcase their sprezzatura (from Castiglione's Il Cortegiano: the art of doing something difficult and/or complex with apparent ease and nonchalance) -- hence the masterful intermingling of spirits with nothing more than a languid turn of the wrist.
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#47 Alchemist

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 10:53 AM

Stirring is one of the hardest things to master behind the bar. The shake is the gregarious rockstar, it gets the applause and the swooning fans, while the stir is the studio muscian, creating genius and getting no accolades. The shake is designed to make the cocktail dance, while the stir is there to make the cocktail recline on a sofa and wax poetic.

At The Violet Hour cocktail servers were part of the 50 hour training course. I got them to try stirring, so the bartenders could build the drink and the servers could stir it when it was busy. The look on thier face when they couldn't get the ice to lackadaisically swirl, like a debutant at a cotilion, was great. Their eyebrows would go up and a frown took over. You can see the "this shouldn't be this hard" creases between thier eyebrows.

Sloppy stirring is painful to watch. Booze is wasted, the clanking of metal on glass is unsettling, the little chips of ice an unwelcome sharp addition to what should be warming, fridgid, smooth, slick, liquid velvet.



A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

#48 slkinsey

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 11:09 AM

It's interesting to me that no one has designed a better stirring vessel. I'd think that something with a convex curved shape, perhaps also with a gently rounded inner surface at the bottom of the glass, would better facilitate graceful and easy stirring than the straight-sided or gently sloped, narrow-at-the bottom mixing glasses we use today. In fact, a properly curved "stirring glass" could easily be employed as a "swirling glass" where the contents are mixed around without even needing the intervention of a spoon (the bartender would gently move the glass around in a circular motion, thereby using our old friend centripetal force to create a minor vortex inside the glass without the use of a spoon).
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#49 eje

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 11:15 AM

It's interesting to me that no one has designed a better stirring vessel.  I'd think that something with a convex curved shape, perhaps also with a gently rounded inner surface at the bottom of the glass, would better facilitate graceful and easy stirring than the straight-sided or gently sloped, narrow-at-the bottom mixing glasses we use today.  In fact, a properly curved "stirring glass" could easily be employed as a "swirling glass" where the contents are mixed around without even needing the intervention of a spoon (the bartender would gently move the glass around in a circular motion, thereby using our old friend centripetal force to create a minor vortex inside the glass without the use of a spoon).

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I can say from experience that big pitchers with rounded bottoms work great for Sazeracs for groups. Once you get the sugar dissolved, you don't need the spoon, just swirl the pitcher as slkinsey suggests.

In fact, I prefer making Sazeracs in pitchers to individually. Doesn't hurt that it is a crowd pleaser of a drink. However, it really is a drink where batching the steps makes preparing them much more efficient. Takes almost the same amount of time to make a big pitcher of Sazeracs for 6 that it does to make a single drink.

The only real challenge is finding an appropriate utensil for the straining. Especially since every time I've done this its been at friends' or families' houses, where I don't have access to proper bar equipment. Maybe I should start checking that second bag with proper mixing and measuring tools when traveling!
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#50 slkinsey

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 11:21 AM

I'd like to have a "swirling pitcher" with a curved/rounded interior capable of making from 1 to 3 drinks at a time. It would have a pouring spout but the top would be sized so that the opening is approximately the same as a bar-standard mixing tin. This would facilitate easy addition of ice to the mixing vessel and would also fit a standard Hawthorne strainer.
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#51 johnder

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 11:54 AM

I know for myself when I get a dupe that has 5 drinks on it, say

Manhattan
Aviation
El Diablo
Dirty Vodka Martini (eek)
and a draft beer

My order for building the drinks would be to put out the two mixing glasses full of ice and build the stirred drinks (Manhattan and Martini). Give it a quick stir and set it aside.

Then build the other two drinks in their shaker tins. Pack with ice and shake the two drinks. Pull the glassware needed and pour our the shaken drinks. Give the two stirred drinks a stir for 10-15 second then pour those out and then pull the beer while the server garnishes the drinks.

It is pretty common practice for most cocktail centric bars in NYC to follow this practice of always building your stirred drinks first and setting them aside to "cook" while you make the other drinks. I wouldn't leave the stir drinks to cook too long, but in the time it takes me to make a aviation and a diablo from first pour of liquor to pour out into the glass is probably 1 minute and change.

I like working in service and getting big tickets of different drinks. It is sort of a game to determine the best optimization algorithm for the least amount of movement of the bottles; ie: building all the drinks simultaneously.
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#52 slkinsey

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 12:15 PM

Makes sense. Stirring accelerates the thermal transfer between the ice and the spirits. There is some thermal transfer going on while the booze is just sitting on the ice, but not nearly as much. This is why the spirits can sit on the ice while you build the shaken drinks without overly diluting the cocktail (and, as you observe, you usually end up having to stir at the end for even a little more dilution). This is somewhat dependent on the size of the ice, of course.
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#53 bostonapothecary

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 12:41 PM

you guys are lucky you are at a point where you can analyze the art... i can't even get my guys to stir at all... i started printing "stirred" as an ingredient on the cocktail list to keep my bartenders honest...

i get so many large tips for stirring manhattans and making them proper... up here i apparently look pretty good relative to most other people's technique... sad but profitable??

i use frozen pints for stirring because i have really bad ice... i started drinking more of my own drinks and realized i needed to keep more frozen pints around because with the ice i have its the only way to really get things cold enough and not diluted to death...

i've notice though that sometimes i'm not getting enough dilution. my freezer with the pints seems to have a big spread in temperature and needs to be defrosted often... if its at its most cold things need to rest a little longer to dilute to normal level or so i've observed...

tricky this cocktail mixing business...
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#54 Chris Amirault

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 02:27 PM

Cooking for 1-2 minutes (John's estimate to a drink I recently timed somewhere not-PDT) seems a bit long to me, but, then again, I like my stirred drinks pretty strong and after decades of watery swill I tend to undercook.

Sam, when you did those measurements of stirred drinks a while back and dilution, what did you find about timing?
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#55 slkinsey

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 03:09 PM

Timing is all dependent on the variables I posted upthread. If you have very cold ice in big pieces, it can sit for quite some time without diluting. On the other hand, if you have 100% finely cracked ice, you want to get the spirits on and off the ice rather quickly. In general, you're looking for something between 20% and 25% dilution, depending on the spirits (proof, intensity, etc.) and the desired effect. It's up to each person to work with the materials they have and arrive at an optimal strategy.

I personally find that hand-cracked ice straight out of the freezer works best (I've experimented with machine-cracked ice, but this is a bit too small and results in more dilution than I want). I fill a frozen glass mixing vessel as full of ice as it can possibly be packed. Given this arrangement, I find that it can sit for a minute or two with no ill effect. The more coldness you bring to the game, the slower the ice will melt. You'll always get a more watered drink if you stir with 3 ice cubes instead of 23 ice cubes.

Of course, the longer the booze sits on the ice, the more dilution you're going to get. And the more chilling you're going to get (up to a point). The trick is matching up optimal chilling with the proper amount of dilution. One way to play with this on a more scientific basis would be to pick up a jug of cheap vodka, a Thermopen and some finely calibrated measuring flasks. But the results you get at home with your ice and your equipment won't necessarily hold true at someone else's home, never mind a bar like PDT (in general, the Kold Draft ice at top cocktail bars starts out better in terms of purity/density, but ends up warmer than home ice by the time it's used -- this is one reason they can't use as much cracked ice as I can use at home and generally go with a mixture of cracked and whole ice for stirring).

Edited by slkinsey, 03 January 2008 - 03:21 PM.

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#56 eje

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 06:13 PM

Lately, I've been making all my stirred drinks with cracked ice cubes in the 28oz stainless half of my WMF boston shaker and have found the results much more consistent than mucking about chilling a mixing glass or using a mixing glass at room temp.

I understand the visual appeal of making a stirred drink in the tempered glass mixing glass, but given the usual state of bar ice, I wonder if it is ultimately the best method.

I find the temperature of the tempered mixing glass makes one of the larger differences in the temperature and dilution of the cocktail.

If you're not free pouring, is there any compelling reason to use the tempered clear mixing glass? Why not just use the stainless tin so you don't have to worry about the temperature of the glass sucking all the cold out of your drink?

I did have one person float the idea past me that the taste of a martini mixed in stainless was noticeably different from that of a drink made in glass. I'm kind of dubious, especially if we're talking about 18/10 stainless, but who knows...
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#57 slkinsey

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 06:43 PM

The only reasons to use glass are (a) it's easier to see the dilution, and (b) if the glass is pre-chilled, there are some thermal benefits. Needless to say, if the mixing vessel is not pre-chilled, it is disadvantageous from a thermal perspective to use glass. Most home users can spare a little extra room in the freezer for a mixing glass or two. Most bars use room-temperature equipment, which means it would be more advantageous to use a metal mixing vessel. Bars like Pegu Club that are able to freeze their glass mixing vessels are generally able to produce the coldest stirred drinks.

All of which leads to the general rule of thumb:

room temperature equipment = use metal

frozen equipment = use glass

It's up to the individual home or professional mixologist as to whether it's worth the trouble to freeze the equipment. There is no reason to freeze the typical thin metal mixing cup, because the thermal capacity is too low to make a difference.
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#58 jmfangio

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Posted 03 January 2008 - 08:51 PM

It's interesting to me that no one has designed a better stirring vessel.  I'd think that something with a convex curved shape, perhaps also with a gently rounded inner surface at the bottom of the glass, would better facilitate graceful and easy stirring than the straight-sided or gently sloped, narrow-at-the bottom mixing glasses we use today.  In fact, a properly curved "stirring glass" could easily be employed as a "swirling glass" where the contents are mixed around without even needing the intervention of a spoon (the bartender would gently move the glass around in a circular motion, thereby using our old friend centripetal force to create a minor vortex inside the glass without the use of a spoon).

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I saw something kind of like this being done in the India episode of No Reservations. The bartender assembled the ingredients in a large snifter, then stirred the drink by swirling the base on the counter (scroll to around 6:40 in the video):



Definitely looks cool, but I wonder how effective it is.
"Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other." - W. Somerset Maugham

#59 slkinsey

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 08:00 AM

That's the general idea. Of course, that particular mixing vessel is too small (and the bartender uses only a single large piece of ice) to be particularly efficient. But something with a similarly curved shape and a volume closer to 30 ounces, capable of accommodating at least ten cubes worth of cracked ice, would work nicely. In my mind's eye, it would be taller and narrower than a snifter, which would make it easier to pour out of.
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#60 jmfangio

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 12:38 PM

That's the general idea.  Of course, that particular mixing vessel is too small (and the bartender uses only a single large piece of ice) to be particularly efficient.  But something with a similarly curved shape and a volume closer to 30 ounces, capable of accommodating at least ten cubes worth of cracked ice, would work nicely.  In my mind's eye, it would be taller and narrower than a snifter, which would make it easier to pour out of.

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Something a bit like a 1000ml Erlenmeyer flask?
"Martinis should always be stirred, not shaken, so that the molecules lie sensuously one on top of the other." - W. Somerset Maugham