Friday, November 03, 2006

Shake and Roll

Question from the Forum (thanks to Romial): "I'm just recently attending bartending school and we went over martinis tonite. The teacher told us to put the strainer on the mixing cup and shake it back and forth and frost the tin that way. I said that I saw video clips online doing it up and down and mixing harder and he said that was mainly for when you don't have a blender, and if you mix it hard up and down it'll water the drink down a little bit more. Can you clarify if there is a difference?

"Also, we did highballs the night before and I know from your podcasts that you don't like to serve any drink without at least rolling it first. But instead of us doing that, they just had us build them in a certain order and that's it. No mixing at all except for what the liquids do themselves. What are your thoughts on this?"

A: Cool -- so here's the scoop: Not sure exactly what you're describing when you say your instructor is frosting the tin with the strainer on, but I'm going to assume it's more akin to stirring or swirling the drink. The key, though, is that the drink is being agitated with ice until the tin is frosted. Once that happens, you know the temperature is correct, so the technique you're being taught is fine. Both should result in the same amount of melting (minimal if you use enough ice), since both are taking the drink and the ice to the same temperature.

I'm a big fan of shaking for several reason. First, it's the easiest way to get things right for beginning bartenders. Second, it's quicker than stirring, again especially for the beginner. Third, it aerates the drink better, and an aerated drink will have a more intense flavor since the bubbles carry scent to your nasal passages while you drink it. Last, shaking cracks the ice and leaves mini ice flakes in the drink which help it hold temperature longer.

Is shaking the only correct way to chill a drink? Definitely not, but it is the way I recommend 90 percent of the time. Some guests will specifically ask for you NOT to shake their drink (I had a Maker's Mark rep as a regular who would send back Manhattans if they were shaken because she liked to see her bourbon presented nice and clear), and you should definitely accommodate those people, but the vast majority prefer their drinks as cold as possible and want them to stay that way as long as possible. For that, shaking just can't be beat.

As for shaking being able to substitute for a blender, that's definitely true (a post blender, actually, which is the kind they use in soda fountains and ice cream shops) and one of it's advantages -- you need less equipment if you can master shaking. I'll be doing some upcoming episodes on stirring because you should have that club in your bag as well, but it's a bit more advanced and used much less frequently.

On to highballs -- we haven't covered them in the podcast series yet (although the Presbyterian comes close), but I have an episode planned just for this classic cocktail. As a sneak preview, your instructor is correct: one of the defining characteristics of a highball is that it is NOT mixed, and if you notice I didn't mix the Pres. The cool part is why they're not mixed, and for that you'll have to wait for the episode.

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