Shaken vs. stirred cocktails is a long-running topic of conversation, a debate perhaps best memorialized by James Bond’s immortal words, “Shaken, not stirred.” Casual consumers of cocktails might not know why it matters, but there are meaningful differences between the two methods.
Shaken vs. Stirred: What’s the Difference?
The way you combine different drink ingredients matters. Shaking and stirring are two methods of crafting cocktails, and these two techniques achieve different levels of aeration, dilution, blending, and temperature.
- Texture and Aeration – Aeration changes the texture of your cocktail. A shaker creates aeration by whipping air into the liquid, making it foamy, frothy, and full of tiny air bubbles. Aeration gives shaken drinks a lighter texture. Because stirred drinks haven’t had air bubbles added, their texture should be smooth and silky by comparison.
- Dilution – Recipes rarely include water but will usually list ice. As the ice melts, the water helps dilute the drink. Dilution helps balance the flavors of the drink and the taste of the alcohol. Spirit-heavy cocktails, in particular, need some dilution to bring out flavors and aromas that the alcohol could easily overpower. Both stirring and shaking dilute cocktails to different degrees. Shaking a drink makes the ice cubes break into small pieces, which melt, effectively chilling and diluting the drink. Stirring combines the drink without breaking up the ice, which leads to less dilution than shaking (though stirring for longer can further dilute your drink). Dilution also knocks some of the power out of alcohol, making cocktails more enjoyable and easier to drink.
- Blending – Mixing cocktail ingredients helps blend the different elements into one harmonious drink. Stirred drinks usually have fewer ingredients and are primarily alcoholic, and can be easily combined through gentle stirring. Drinks with lots of non-alcoholic mix-ins or other heavy components benefit from being shaken, as this will thoroughly mix these elements.
- Temperature – Both methods chill your drink, but shaking is more effective at achieving that icy-cold temperature that makes so many shaken drinks so refreshing.
But how do you know when to stir and when to shake? Here’s a general rule to follow: If the intended final product is clear, stir. If the intended final product is cloudy, shake. Stirred drinks are typically made exclusively with spirits, whereas shaken drinks will often contain other ingredients like fruit juice, dairy, cream, egg whites, or sour mix.
Shake It Up
Shaking is much more than just a flashy way to make a cocktail. Shaking chills and dilutes a drink more quickly than stirring. It’s also a more efficient method of combining non-alcoholic mix-ins with a liquor base and blending the flavors of a drink with a lot of ingredients.
You should shake cocktails that include: fruit juice, dairy or cream, egg whites, or sour mix. Shaking combines the different flavors of these ingredients efficiently, dilutes the alcohol, balances the flavors, and quickly chills the drink.
Though different drinks sometimes require different lengths of time, a good rule of thumb is to shake your drink for around 10 seconds. Cocktails that have a lot of ingredients or contain dairy elements such as egg whites or cream will take longer to combine properly. For these drinks, shake for at least 30 seconds.
Hold the shaker with both hands, one on each piece, and shake it horizontally over your shoulder. Hold it firmly and shake hard. Most shaken drinks require vigorous shaking, so don’t be too gentle.
One of the most popular shaken drinks, margaritas satisfy all of our taste buds – they’re sweet, sour, salty, and most importantly, delicious. Our favorite way to prepare one? With Demitri’s organic, gourmet Margarita Mix – just add alcohol! Coat the rim of your glass in our Margarita Rimshot salt, the perfect blend of pineapple, pomegranate, and lime, with just a touch of chili pepper. You’ll have yourself a premium cocktail in no time at all.
Stirring may seem pretty straightforward, but stirring a drink requires extra attention. After all, you aren’t mixing a batter; you’re mixing a drink. You want to combine the ingredients effectively and slightly dilute the spirits to maximize the taste.
You should stir cocktails that are spirit-forward and contain only liquors and liqueurs. Stirring minimizes the amount of dilution while bringing out the different aromas and flavors of the ingredients.
How long you stir for will depend on the drink. You want to combine your cocktail gently without over-diluting it. As a general rule, stir your drink for 30 seconds. Experiment with how long you stir your drink for and compare the difference in taste to find the length of time you like best.
In a truly shocking twist, the classic martini is meant to be stirred, NOT shaken. A proper martini should be made with gin and dry vermouth, garnished with speared olives. There are many variations on this traditional cocktail, from the dirty martini (add a splash of olive juice), the vodka martini (uses vodka instead of gin), and so on.
As with any rule, there are exceptions. Some drinks need to be shaken and stirred! Others defy the rules altogether.
For example, the Bloody Mary defies the rules of traditional cocktail mixing. It might seem like the perfect drink for shaking with all of those heavy ingredients, from seasonings to tomato juice. Plus, the final product is opaque, a sure sign of a shaken drink. But shaking a Bloody Mary is a novice mistake. You don’t want the tomato juice to foam and lose its texture, and shaking will do just that.
The best way to prepare a Bloody Mary? Combine Demitri’s Bloody Mary Mix with vodka and tomato juice with ice and stir for 10 seconds. Pour into the serving glass and top however you like. We might be biased, but we like using our Pepperoni Straws and rimming salts.
Shaken vs. Stirred Cocktails: Which is Better?
So, which is better? It depends. It may be unsatisfying, but it’s true. There is no ultimate method of cocktail preparation that outshines the other – both shaking and stirring are important; it just depends on the drink you’re making. It also comes down to personal preference, and if you like your martinis shaken, not stirred, you’re in good company.
Mix a Perfect Cocktail Every Time
Sometimes cocktails can be a lot – a lot of ingredients and a lot of work. Demitri’s Bloody Mary Seasoning and Margarita Mixes make it easy to craft great-tasting cocktails every time. Our products come in all sizes, from single-serve pouches to 64oz jugs, perfect for your brunch, bar, or bachelor(ette) party.