Learn the Difference Between Shaken & Stirred Cocktails

equipment for cocktails

You're at the bar and order a martini, and the bartender asks a question that might seem daunting to those who are not familiar with the art of cocktail making, "would you like that shaken or stirred?" Unsure of what to say, you shift nervously in your seat and tell the bartender you'll just have a light beer instead. Fear not, we've spoken to the Director of Beverage Studies at Institute of Culinary Education, Anthony Caporale, to get the lowdown on when you should shake or stir your cocktails.

Anthony Caporale says that people live hard by this common misconception - if the cocktail is clear, stir it. If you are combining liquor with juices and mixes, then shake it. On the contrary, that is not necessarily the case, it is all about preference. Shaking and stirring are two different preparation techniques that will have a different effect on the drink. Anthony Caporale helps us break down the two methods and shares the benefits of each.

shaken cocktails

Shaking Cocktails

  • Introduces ice chips into the cocktail which keeps the cocktail cooler longer, about 10-15 minutes longer. Ice chips also help “open up” the drink, making the cocktail smoother and more pleasurable to consume.
  • Aerates cocktail and creates a more intense flavor by introducing air bubbles to the drink which capture the aromas in the liquid. When the drink is consumed the bubbles pop, and you inhale the aroma which then creates a more intense flavor.

Tips for Shaking

  • Shake in a stainless steel cocktail shaker so you can easily tell when the drink is ready when there is frost on the cocktail shaker - about 30 seconds to a minute. The frost indicates that the cocktail is ready to be served and is chilled to an ideal temperature.
  • Cocktails that call for milk and cream should not be shaken in the cocktail shaker all at once, this will create foam and compromise the integrity of the cocktail. Shake ingredients first, then strain, add milk or cream and stir.
  • Cocktail recipes that call for carbonated liquids such as soda, club soda or seltzer should be added at the end of the cocktail preparation. Shaking with carbonated liquids will decarbonate the liquid and will result in a mess as the lid of the cocktail shaker will pop off.


stirred cocktails

Stirring Cocktails

  • Preserves the clarity of the drink.
  • No ice chips, drinks warm up quicker.

Tips for Stirring Cocktails

  • Use a glass so you can see what you’re doing and avoid over stirring.
  • Carbonated drinks should not be stirred because they will lose their carbonation and become flat. Add carbonated liquids at the end of the preparation.

Dilution is good!

Something to keep in mind when ordering a cocktail, water is an essential ingredient in any spirit. Spirits are 40% alcohol and 60% water so adding water to the cocktail does not harm it. Ice chips not only chill the drink, but they open up the cocktail through dilution and create a more pleasant, smooth drink. So don’t discount a well-shaken cocktail just because you don’t want to “water” down the drink.

shaken and stirred cocktails

The Takeaway

Whether to shake or stir a cocktail, it is all about preference. If you want a smoother, colder cocktail, order it shaken. Prefer something a bit stronger with a bite, ask for it stirred. Now walk into any bar or lounge with confidence and order your cocktail the way you like it!

Get Equipped

To learn more about Anthony Caporale, visit his bio page on Institute of Culinary Education site here.


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