Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Shaken, Not Stirred

One of the most common questions I get, this time from the YouTube site:

Q: When it comes to bourbon, when do you shake and when do you stir? The two drinks you showed in your last video are really similar but one was shaken and the other was stirred.

A: Great question, and a source of contention among some bartenders. Shaking versus stirring doesn't depend on the liquor, but rather on the mixers and, more importantly, on how the bartender wants to present the drink. Shaking aerates the drink, which makes it easier for your nose to get involved in the tasting and can thus intensify the flavor. This also froths the ingredients, which lightens the texture but also clouds the liquid. Lastly it imparts ice flakes which help keep the drink at temperature.

Stirring keeps the drink dense and clear, but does this at the expense of aeration and ice flakes. To me, flavor and temperature are more important in most cocktails than keeping them clear, so I shake almost all my drinks. The exceptions are liquor-only (no mixers) drinks that I serve up (no ice) and specifically want to keep crystal-clear - and these are rare. (Also consider that even a shaken drink will clarify in just a few minutes.)

I've taken temperature readings over 30 minutes of shaken and stirred drinks countless times in training classes, and shaken drinks stay significantly colder longer. A properly-shaken martini will still be below 40F after sitting for 15 minutes, while the stirred version doesn't hold temp nearly that long.

Last common misconception is that shaking waters a drink down more than stirring, which is not only untrue but immaterial. First off, ice melt is an important ingredient in a properly mixed drink. Secondly, physics tells us that cooling a liquid from Temp A to Temp B requires the ice to absorb X amount of heat, which in turn results in Y volume of ice melt. Both methods rely on convective cooling and if the temperature is lowered the same amount, the melt will be equal.

Thanks for watching!

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