Are You Shaking A Cocktail You Should Be Stirring?

Some cocktails benefit from a vigorous shake. Others prefer a swift stir. And still others just want to chillax on some rocks.

Here’s the low-down on when to do what.

Shaken or stirred?

Shaken or Stirred?

Why stir? A couple reasons.

1) You want a cocktail that’s clear as an alpine stream.
For see-through clarity, stir a martini or manhattan. A stirred martini has a very soft, silky texture. Shaking aerates the cocktail, which changes the texture, makes it a bit frothy. Some people like that, some don’t.

2) You want the least amount of dilution possible.
Shaking will draw a bit more water off the ice than stirring. Put another way, stirring can give you a stiffer drink.

A stirred Manhattan isn't murky or frothy.

A stirred Manhattan isn’t murky or frothy | Photo by Butler

Why shake? Again, two reasons.

1) To get a super-cold cocktail.
Shaking is good for drinks served up (without ice). A shaken martini has icy snap and a good crisp bite. Also, if you’re serving a cocktail over ice and want to start with a very cold drink, shake it first, and then strain it over fresh ice. All you need are about 15 or 20 good shakes.

2) To combine ingredients quickly and thoroughly.
Cocktails with egg whites need to be shaken. Drinks with citrus juice are also good candidates. A Gin Fizz always needs to be shaken to incorporate the egg whites into cream and citrus juice — and it requires a little extra elbow grease to mix it right.

Cocktails with fruit juice are good candidates for the shaker.

A shaken Lemon Drop is cold, cold comfort | Photo by Meredith

Cocktails to Shake

Ramos Gin Fizz

Tom Collins Cocktail

Pisco Sour

Classic Whiskey Sour

Classic Aviation Cocktail

Mai Tai Cocktail

Daiquiri Cocktail

Watermelon Fizz

Prickly Pear Cactus Margarita

Shaking a Mai Tai incorporates the fruit juice into the cocktail.

Shaking a Mai Tai incorporates all the ingredients | Photo by Anna Berman

Cocktails to Stir…or Shake

Dan Fay Martini

Bond’s Vesper

Shaggy’s Manhattan

Negroni Cocktail

A stirred martini is nice and clear

A stirred martini is nice and clear | Photo by Marianne

Cocktails That Don’t Need Preliminary Shaking or Stirring

Mix these in the same glass you’ll be sipping from.

Classic Old Fashioned

Tequila Sunrise Cocktail

Moscow Mule Cocktail

Screwdriver Cocktail

Gin and Tonic

An Old Fashioned doesn't need preliminary stirring. in a pitcher or pint glass.

Mix an Old Fashioned in the glass, add ice, and sip | Photo by maiugirl

Which is colder, a stirred cocktail or a shaken cocktail?

A shaken cocktail. The strange truth is, you can actually shake a cocktail to below 0 °C (between -5 to -7 °C).

Will shaking longer make it colder?

No. After about 20 vigorous shakes, the temperature plateaus. Any shaking after that is called exercise.

Why doesn’t it get colder?

Because science. It’s complicated. This article explains it.

How long do I need to stir a cocktail to make it ice cold?

What takes 10 seconds with a shaker, requires a couple minutes of constant stirring.

Pro-tip for colder stirred drinks: Start out with a chilled stirring pitcher or pint glass. Then your ice won’t have to work to cool down the pitcher as well as the liquid.

Does the type of ice matter?

Not really. But use lots of ice so there’s a lot of surface area exposed.