What’s the deal with shaken cocktails?
A general rule of thumb is when a drink contains juice, cream/dairy, or egg, it is shaken. Cocktails are mostly stirred if they contain only spirits. Shaking a drink will not only chill it, but will also aerate the ingredients, resulting in a lovely, frothy texture. Shaking with ice will also dilute the cocktail - this is good! The added water lightens up the usually heavier ingredients contained in the drink and will provide balance to the flavors.
Harry Craddock, a famous bartender in the 1930s said, “Shake the shaker as hard as you can. Don’t just rock it, you’re trying to wake it up, not send it to sleep!” A vigorous shake will send the ice back and forth in the shaker like a piston, working its magic on the ingredients and resulting in those yummy benefits we talked about earlier.
How to shake:
Add the ingredients into your shaker. (Warning! ☢️ If your cocktail calls for a carbonated ingredient - like champagne, club soda, tonic, etc. - don’t shake this! Because... kaboom! 💥 You’ll add the bubbles in the drinking glass, post-shaking.)
Add a few ice cubes, the larger the better. Small ice melts too quickly and can over-dilute your cocktail, resulting in a watery mess.
Seal your shaker (give it a hard smack on the top) and make sure there are no cracks where your precious drink can leak out. If you are using a Boston shaker - the kind with two cups made of metal, or one side with glass and the other with metal - the two pieces will not align neatly up and down. One of the pieces will be slanted, and this is correct!
Your shaking position is up to you. I find that holding it with both hands, one on each end, in front of my shoulder and shaking it from back to front feels comfortable. Some people hold it in line with their torso and shake up and down. Work with your body to figure out a good position that doesn’t cause stress.
Shake vigorously for around 10-15 seconds - remember, we are here to wake it up! You’ll feel the shaker get frosty cold in your hands, and you’ll feel a subtle shift in the weight and balance of the contents inside. (I know, this sounds woo-woo, but the more you shake, you’ll start to feel it!)
Set the shaker down and give it a firm smack with the heel of your palm to break the vacuum seal. This part can be kind of tricky and you might need to give it more muscle than you’d think!
Using a Hawthorne strainer - the kind with the spring around the edge - or whatever kind of small, fine mesh strainer you have in the kitchen, pour the liquid through the strainer into your glass. You want to catch all the ice and any solid ingredients that were in the shaker. If a recipe instructs you to double strain, that means using both the Hawthorne and a fine mesh strainer at the same time to filter out as much as possible.
If your recipe calls for bubbles, add them now.
As The Beatles so eloquently put it, “Shake it up baby!” Tell us about your shaken cocktails - what’s your favorite? 👇
We'll be talking stirred cocktails next week - stay tuned!