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Shaken or Stirred? When and Why We Use Cocktail Shakers

By Cook's Illustrated Published November 2016

There are two main categories of cocktails: stirred drinks and shaken drinks. The way you make a cocktail depends on its contents.

There are two main categories of cocktails: stirred drinks and shaken drinks. The way you make a cocktail depends on its contents. If the drink is composed of just spirits—say, a Manhattan or a martini—you stir it. (Sorry, 007, but you’ve been ordering incorrectly.) Stirring is an effective way to combine liquors, and it produces a clearer drink with a denser body. Stirred drinks tend to be chilled and diluted slightly less than shaken drinks; this allows the flavors of the liquors themselves to shine.

If a drink contains fruit juice, egg, or dairy—ingredients that are a little harder to integrate into liquor—you’ll want to shake it. Shaking chills the drink more quickly than stirring; dilutes the alcohol to bring acid, sugar, and alcohol into harmony; and gives texture to your mixed drink, aerating the components so they’re light and foamy and breaking some of the ice into tiny, drinkable shards. (Most bartenders will strain off these shards so that the finished drink has a smoother and more homogeneous texture, but a few prefer to let the ice float on top, where it affords a bit of crunch.)