What Bond Did
Sean Connery, Goldfinger, 1964

James Bond may be responsible for one of the most contentious statements in drink-related history. In Goldfinger, 007 (as played by Sean Connery) instructs the bartender to give him “A martini—shaken, not stirred.” The infamous line has become part of the pop culture lexicon. Bartenders far and wide have something to say about this, which brings us to our topic for today: shaking vs. stirring.

Daniel Craig on Skyfall, 2012
Daniel Craig on Skyfall, 2012
Some Things to Consider
Shaking vs Stirring
Hendrick’s Gin Brand Ambassador Tasha Lu

Before we get into the ins and outs of shaking versus stirring, let’s tackle a few things.

First, let’s talk about dilution. Regarded as something bad, it is one of those things that’s only bad when there’s too much or too little of it. Dilution is necessary when making a proper cocktail. It is accounted for in drink recipes and it changes the overall composition of the drink. In the time before ice was readily available, bartenders would add a dash of water to drinks because it was necessary to make a drink enjoyable (see an old recipe for the Sazerac, for example).

Temperature is also important in making a cocktail. The vast majority of cocktails are cold. Glassware is chilled before the cocktail is poured to make sure that the temperature mostly stays the same when the drink is poured into it. Melting ice into the drink can kill these two birds with one stone (or several ice cubes).

Both methods chill, dilute, and blend your drink—but they have different effects on flavor and texture that work better with some cocktail recipes than others.

Other things to be considered are the density and viscosity of the ingredients in the cocktail.

Sam Webster: Head Bartender of Hooch bar

Most bartenders go by a general rule for when to shake a drink. If the cocktail has any or all of the following, it should be shaken: juice, dairy, egg whites. Shaking will aerate the cocktail (the action of whipping up the cocktail with ice causes air bubbles to become trapped in the liquid for a time) and create a nice frothy effect.

Cocktails requiring eggs are shaken for five to seven seconds without ice to emulsify the egg proteins (shaking without ice is called a “dry shake”), then shaken with ice for 10 to 13 seconds to dilute and chill the mixture (as long as you have enough air in the shaker).

Rule of thumb? Shake your cocktail whenever you need to ensure that every ingredient is fully integrated into the finished drink’s flavor.

There are different types of shaking—slow or hard—depending on your ingredients. If you have basil in your drink, a hard shake is needed in order to release the oils and flavors into your cocktail. Drinks are usually shaken for about 13 seconds (give or take). Unless, of course, you order a Ramos Gin Fizz. The drink contains cream, egg white, and citrus juice, three ingredients that should be shaken. And this cocktail should be shaken for NO LESS THAN 12 MINUTES (talk about a great arm workout).

Shaking also changes the texture of your cocktail, particularly how it feels in your mouth, since the liquid is most likely frothy or has a nice foam on top. Shaken drinks feel lighter on the palate and usually impart a better flavor release. This adds to the tactile experience of the cocktail and the way in which the flavor is perceived.

Drinks you should shake

  1. Margarita
  2. Clover Club
  3. Daiquiri
  4. Singapore Sling

Dark and Stormy preparation

In contrast, drinks that require stirring are typically composed exclusively of spirits or liquid ingredients with the same viscosity (maybe other ingredients are muddled and churned separately). Stirring is, in a sense, a very slow and gentle shake. It gently mixes the ingredients and binds them together, making sure that no air bubbles are formed. Stirring is done in a chilled mixing glass with a spout, the liquid ingredients are poured over ice, and a bar spoon is twisted from the top so that the spoon goes around the glass in an even manner. The components are gently mixed together, making sure no air bubbles are formed—and the cocktail gets chilled (but not diluted). The result is a clear and spirit-forward cocktail.

Contrary to what most people think, shaking doesn’t produce colder cocktails (as long as you take the time to stir correctly). Stirring produces silky, strong drinks with perfect clarity.

Drinks to be stirred

  • Manhattan
  • Old Fashioned
  • Rusty Nail
  • Mint Julep

Choosing one instead of the other

If you ask for a traditionally stirred drink to be shaken for whatever reason, a good bartender will shake the hell out of it. Just please don’t mind the pained expression on their face as they do it (though a good bartender can keep their expression neutral in situations like these). If you ask for a typically shaken drink to be stirred, they’ll do it as well. But be warned that your drink will separate and won’t taste the way it was intended to.

Restaurateur, expert drinker, creative proprietor of steam punk bar Hooch, SMITH Butcher and Grill Room, Ebeneezers, Poulet Manille, and Ampersand. She wrote The Standard newspaper’s Tipple Tales cocktail and spirits column and co-hosted the Manila episode of the Travel Channel show Booze Traveler with cocktail connoisseur Jack Maxwell. She is DrinkManila’s resident mixology expert.

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