To Shake Or To Stir
In the recent past we’ve discussed what it takes to build a home bar – different kinds of glasses, bar tools, importance of ice, etc. But there is one thing that every cocktail and bar enthusiast must know and without which there will be no cocktails – mixing. If you don’t know what to mix and how to mix it there, the entire purpose of a cocktail is defeated.
The 2 basic and most commonly used techniques of mixing are shaking and stirring. Now, it is equally important to know when and how to use these techniques and this is what we’ll look at here.
The fast action movement when everything is thrown into a shaker and the bartender flips it over his shoulder with a flair to vigorously shake it. It may look all fancy and opulent but there is a purpose to it. The mixing has to allow all ingredients to blend into each other, incorporate air into the drink and obviously chill the drink.
Placing the shaker over your shoulder ensures that if there are any spillage from the shaker it won’t be directed towards anyone sitting in front of you
Therefore, shaking as a technique is used for drinks which use, juices, eggs and dairy products. These ingredients have different densities which will not blend with each other with just stirring. Drinks like Margarita, Whiskey Sour and Cosmopolitan are good examples of drinks which are shaken.
There is also the question of what ice to use in such drinks, use big ice cubes. They help in chilling without over dilution since the drink already has non alcoholic diluting ingredients.
As to how to go about shaking your cocktail shaker, you will only be able to develop your own style with practice. Flip the closed shaker over your shoulder and give it an aggressive shake. You should be able to hear the ice knocking against the two ends of the shaker. Depending how much strength you use shake it for 15-20 seconds and then give it another 10 seconds just to be sure. Placing the shaker over your shoulder ensures that if there are any spillage from the shaker it won’t be directed towards anyone sitting in front of you.
Stirring cocktails is less strenuous but required equal amount of skill. Cocktails are stirred when there are only spirits used in the drinks. Thanks to the same density of different components it becomes easier to mix it and the aggressive agitation is not required.
The big cubes chill the drink and smaller chunks help in the necessary dilution of the drink. Without the premeditated dilution the drink may seem off balance
It is a gentler technique where the drink is meant to be clear. It might also be said that too vigorous a shaking may destroy finer points of the individual ingredients. Negroni, Old Fashioned, Martini are drinks which are stirred.
These need a certain amount of dilution since they are all spirits and this is where ice plays a major role. Ideally, you use a mix big ice cubes and small chunks. The big cubes chill the drink and smaller chunks help in the necessary dilution of the drink. This may seem unnecessary but it is a crucial part, without the premeditated dilution the drink may seem off balance.
To stir yourself a perfect drink, you must have a bar spoon. The long handle fits perfectly into the mixing glass giving you enough space to mix comfortably. After you’ve poured in your ingredients, topped the glass with ice, slide the spoon at the edge of the glass. Place the handle between your thumb and index and middle fingers and use your wrist to motion the spoon. It may seem simple but it isn’t that easy, but practice will make you perfect. It will also take slightly longer than cocktail which is shaken.