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On Stirring & Cooking Your Cocktails


adegiulio
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I never thought it made much of a difference between shaking and stirring. Then, a couple of years ago, the old bartender mixing my gimlet pulled out the spoon and gave it a good vigorous stir. Best cocktail of my life. Since then I have been stirring my drinks at home, and find that they are in fact better. I very rarely see bartenders stirring drink. Last night I had two lousy martinis, watery with bits of ice in them. I wanted to tell the youngster behind the bar to stir my drink, but didnt want to seem like a pain in the ass snob.

How do we feel about stirring vs. shaking?

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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All the knowledgeable bartenders here stir when a drink is supposed to be stirred, and shake when a drink is supposed to be shaken - I believe the delineating point, for when a cocktail should be shaken, is the inclusion of citrus.

This goes back not ordering a drink that will be screwed up in most places...

And I don't see it as being a pain in the ass snob when I ask for a drink to be made to my specs - I see it as being a teacher :smile: !

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Usually the rule goes something like this:

Clear ingredients (martini, manhattan) -- Stir

Cloudy ingredients (aviation, sidecar) -- Shake

Clear drinks are supposed to have an almost pristine look to them, which shaking fouls up, as well as a clean mouth-feel, no bits of ice, no froth or foam on top.

Drinks that use cloudy ingredients in most cases involving fresh juices are already cloudy so it's just as well to go ahead and shake.

edit: also, water isn't necessarily a bad thing in a drink, shaking and stirring are both doing two things for your drink, cooling it down and distributing water which cuts the bite of the alcohol and helps to blend flavors.

Edited by Scotttos (log)
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Usually the rule goes something like this:

edit: also, water isn't necessarily a bad thing in a drink, shaking and stirring are both doing two things for your drink, cooling it down and distributing water which cuts the bite of the alcohol and helps to blend flavors.

OF course, but too much water is no good...

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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I have a friend who shakes everything, but he likes his martinis really bruised and really cold. He does omit the bitters, but the vermouth still makes it take a while to clarify.

Personally, I shake depending on ingredients (juice, syrup, etc) and sometimes depending on WHO I am making it for like said friend.

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for me, when I make them myself, I am a "depends on the drink" guy. I tend to follow the rules people have already mentioned.

At a bar? I rarely see a drink get stirred. I've been ordering Manhattans at bars a lot this year. ONCE did someone actually stir it. And they used bitters automatically. This was at Taddich Grill in San Francisco. Everyone else always shakes. There was one "hybrid" approach where a bartender gently trasferred the liqquids and ice from one side to the other of the Boston shaker, then strained it into the cocktail glass. So, not stirring, but not shaking. (that was at Delmonico Steakhouse in Las Vegas)

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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for me, when I make them myself, I am a "depends on the drink" guy.  I tend to follow the rules people have already mentioned.

At a bar?  I rarely see a drink get stirred.  I've been ordering Manhattans at bars a lot this year.  ONCE did someone actually stir it.  And they used bitters automatically.  This was at Taddich Grill in San Francisco.    Everyone else always shakes.  There was one "hybrid" approach where a bartender gently trasferred the liqquids and ice from one side to the other of the Boston shaker, then strained it into the cocktail glass.  So, not stirring, but not shaking.  (that was at Delmonico Steakhouse in Las Vegas)

sounds like a version of "rolling"....which is actually called for in a few cocktail recipes.

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I believe that it was Evelyn Waugh who said, "A martini should always be stirred, not shaken, so the molecules lie sensuously, one on top of the other."

I used to always shake my martinis (to a waltz beat, per Nick Charles), but as I became more interested in mixology I learned the stirring (for drinks containing only spirits) vs. shaking (for drinks containing syrups or juice). I finally tried shaken and stirred martinis back to back, and really found the latter to be better.

Sadly, though, I see maybe one bartender in ten stir a martini or manhattan.

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

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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.

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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IMO, if people are shaking all-spirit drinks like Martinis and Manhattans, this is a sign of one of three things (or a combination): 1. Either they can't be bothered to take the extra time to stir; 2. just like the bartenders who don't bother using any vermouth in a vodka Martini, experience has shown them that most of the customers in their demographic prefer all their cocktails shaken (for many, shaking -- along with the "V glass" -- is part of the image that attracts them to "cocktails"); or 3. they don't know the difference, and probably don't care.

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It seems like I've been running into a lot of borderline cases lately.

Cocktails that are mostly spirits and include a dash or two of juice, or aromatic cocktails with a small amount juice.

I mean, you have to shake yer sours, fixes, fizzes, etc.

But, I've been leaning towards stirring things like Apple Pie Cocktails, Bronx Cocktails, and Casino Cocktails.

Heresy, I imagine.

Still, I tend to think almost any cocktail with sweet vermouth looks more attractive stirred.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had my first request in about 5 months for a stirred martini last night. On the other hand, I probably am asked about 5 times a night to make sure to shake it very well. 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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If a drink contains only a small amount of citrus and mostly boozy ingredients, I'll stir it to keep the pristine clear and unclouded look. This only works if there's a negligible amount of citrus by volume, compared to the other ingredients. Rolling might be an option I hadn't considered that would keep the clarity intact as well.

Mostly I get requests to "shake it until your hands can't take the cold anymore", or "shake it like it's someone you hate that won't shut up." :biggrin:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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adegiulio~

If you would prefer your cocktail stirred in the proper fashion, I heartily recommend heading up Van Brunt, take a right on Atlantic, and then a left on Hicks, ending your journey where that particular avenue meets Cranberry St.

Then belly up to the bar.

(Full disclosure: You may see my ugly mug behind the hickory.)

It's just cold booze in a glass. Drink it, dammit.
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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...

I get that a lot too...weird

I can only assume it's because people who drink martinis like that don't really like the taste of alchohol, which might help to explain the large quantities of people who ask for ice on the side as well. :huh:

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I think that it is a temp. thing. Most people who are gettinng a bathtub of Vodka with a rumor of dry vermouth want it extra extra cold because it doesn't taste good, and cold retards taste.

A DUSTY SHAKER LEADS TO A THIRSTY LIFE

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Right.

Although the problem with oversize cocktails (consider that the standard cocktail glass found in most restaurants and bars holds up to 10 ounces!) warming up is a problem even when the drink is a good one. This is why I've always liked the way Audrey and others have done their large-size Martinis and Manhattans: The drink is stirred with ice, and then half is poured into the glass and half into a small glass caraffe nestled in a bowl of crushed ice where it stays cold without further dilution.

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Right.

Although the problem with oversize cocktails (consider that the standard cocktail glass found in most restaurants and bars holds up to 10 ounces!) warming up is a problem even when the drink is a good one.  This is why I've always liked the way Audrey and others have done their large-size Martinis and Manhattans:  The drink is stirred with ice, and then half is poured into the glass and half into a small glass caraffe nestled in a bowl of crushed ice where it stays cold without further dilution.

That's an excellent solution. I'll have to get me some of those.

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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...

I get that a lot too...weird

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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It isn't. After following up on some experiments Dave Wondrich did, I confirmed that stirring with cracked ice in a frozen stirring glass will give you the coldest drink.

It's all about surface area contact for thermal transfer. With larger cubes, shaking will give you a colder drink because you increase the area of contact (and thus thermal transfer) by moving the liquid around vigorously.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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