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Let’s test your bartending savvy. Do you know when to shake and when to stir? Are you that host that just grabs the glasses, plops a few ice cubes in, dumps in the alcohol, and gives it all a quick stir? It’s o.k., if that’s your bartending style. You’ll still have friends. They just won’t come for cocktails. If you’d like to wow your guests, and boost your bartending reputation with crafted cocktails, here are a few tips help you understand about shaken vs. stirred drinks.
In one of the most iconic lines from Hollywood, James Bond requests his martini to be shaken, not stirred. Ian Fleming, creator of the British Secret Service agent uses the phrase in Diamonds Are Forever and Dr No. In both novels, the expression refers to Martinis. As alluring as Bond’s character is, it’s not a good idea to take his advice on how to mix drinks. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. You’ll need to look further than Mr. Bond for tips on creating the best handcrafted cocktails.
How do you figure it all out? Use logic. If a drink is made with all spirits, it’s stirred, not shaken. Drinks like Martinis, Manhattans, and Old Fashioneds are made with all spirits. What are spirits? Glad you asked. Spirits refer to any unsweetened distilled alcoholic beverage. Vodka, gin, brandy, whiskey, and tequila are spirits. Spirits, for the most part, are equal in density, and all you need to properly combine them is a bar spoon and proper stirring action. It’s really not a big mystery, but you can fool your friends into thinking you know something they don’t when you serve them the perfect clear, spirit-strong cocktail.
It might be tempting to proclaim that a martini should never be shaken, but never is such a strong word, no? If you’re looking for a scientific reason to shake a martini, University of Florida’s George Christou claims that shaking does a better job of removing very volatile organic compounds from the alcohol. Air oxidizes other organic compounds that may be present, which affects taste. It’s similar to allowing red wine to breathe before serving. Christou also says some cheaper vodkas made from potatoes have some oil in them, and shaking will make an emulsion that will hide the oily taste.
Shake It Baby, Shake It.
There’s a good reason cocktails should be shaken. It’s all about blending the drink’s ingredients together smoothly so each sip tastes the same. Cocktails that are served shaken are typically complex drinks made with more than one or two ingredients. Imagine the classic cocktail, Planter’s Punch. It may be a simple mixture of rum, citrus, sugar, and spice, but its flavors are deliciously complicated. Now imagine simply dumping the ingredients in a fancy glass and stirring them together. If you’re handcrafting this cocktail, you’ll use fresh citrus juices, pulp and all. You don’t want distinct layers, and you surely don’t want bits of pulp floating on top. Of course, shaken cocktails are also strained to avoid those bits and pieces.
Enough about Planter’s Punch, you probably still have a few more hours at the 9-5 and you need to keep your mind on work. If a drink has citrus in it, you shake it. If your guests are craving a Whiskey Sour, or perhaps a Pink Lady, which both use egg whites, shake it! Finally, if you’re making drinks that use cream or half and half, like a Brandy Alexander or White Russian, you shake. The purpose of shaking in all of these cocktails is to add, or incorporate air bubbles, which produces a drink that is light and frothy. Now, you’re ready to show off a few new bartending skills. Or, you could just visit your favorite tavern restaurant know for the best handcrafted cocktails. It’s your call.
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