Shaking vs. Stirring

Received an email from a reader:

Hi Erik,

I picked up a copy of the Savoy Cocktail book this summer after realizing that a number of my favorite drinks were cribbed right from it. I more or less stumbled through the recipes until I found blog a few months ago. It’s been a revelation – both in terms of execution and tasting notes – and it’s helped me actually use the book in a real way. So thanks.

I had a question though – shaking vs. stirring, when and why? Alot of the cocktails call for shaking that I would instinctively stir. How do you decide when to do which?

Thanks again for the blog – keep up the good work.

Hey, thank you for reading!

Yeah, if you go from the Savoy, it would seem, in 1930s London, it was trendy to shake just about every cocktail, no matter the ingredients.

On the other hand, the editing is so sloppy, it is possible they just took the easy route and typed “Shake and strain into a cocktail glass” instead of differentiating between shaken and stirred drinks.

Since I have to drink, or at least try, these recipes, I let my personal preferences determine what to do for shaking vs. stirring.

If drinks have any significant amount of citrus, egg, or dairy, I always shake.

If drinks are “up” cocktails composed of all proof spirits, I often, but not always, shake, just for the added chill and extra dilution. An example here would be the Earthquake cocktail.

If drinks are “up” cocktails composed of spirits, liqueurs, and/or amaros or other bittering components, I usually stir.

If drinks have vermouth, I usually stir, unless they have a significant citrus, egg, or dairy component.

There are some drinks that are borderline, like the bronx, with vermouth and a small amount of citrus. I have to admit I have become fond of stirring these drinks, just because they look so much nicer clear.

Hope this helps!

2 thoughts on “Shaking vs. Stirring

  1. Did you see the articles on the “Cooking Issues” blog:
    – Cocktails: The Science of Shaking —
    – Tales of The Cocktail: Science of Shaking II —
    – Cocktail Science in General: Part 1 of 2 —
    – Cocktail Science in General:Part 2 of 2 —

    The short version is that all cooling is by melting. So at the same temperature shaken vs. stirred will be equally dilute. But shaking is far more efficient for heat transfer than stirring. No one is going to stir long enough to get it as cool as possible when shaking. So a shaken cocktail will be cooler and more dilute than a stirred one. But the traditionally stirred cocktails are better less dilute and slightly warmer.

    • Those are really good resources, thanks for posting them!

      I really like the Cooking Issues blog! So cool that they have recently taken an interest in applying scientific principals to cocktails.

      Though a tad verbose for someone looking for a quick answer about whether to shake or stir this cocktail or that.

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