When are Craft Cocktails Shaken or Stirred?
Updated: Jan 22, 2021
Some might think it doesn't make a difference whether you shake or stir, but it does. No, it isn't about "bruising" the alcohol, it's mostly about texture. Shaking a cocktail aerates the libation adding a foam texture. It also leaves shards of ice that might be undesirable. Lastly, shaking imparts water faster into a cocktail so you have to be careful about over dilution.
Simple rule of thumb:
If a Craft Cocktail's ingredients are all alcohol, stirring is preferred. If it has any juices, shake it.
However, as with almost all rules there are exceptions. For example if you have any carbonated ingredients you will want to stir, it would be a mess otherwise. Typically for carbonated Craft Cocktails you would mix your other ingredients using the above rule of thumb, strain over fresh Medium Cube Ice, then add your carbonated ingredient on top.
Also, anytime a recipe calls to build the cocktail over ice you will stir. A good example of this is the White Russian.
What does a Cocktail Craftsman need to stir properly?
Very simply you need a mixing glass, a bar spoon, and cocktail strainer.
There are special mixing glasses that most Cocktail Craftsmen use. It is a tall glass with a wide opening. The lip should have a pouring spout and the bottom should be nice and heavy. The larger the better so that you can mix multiples of the same cocktail at the same time. This is a nice example (pictured here). Amazon Link
The bar spoon is a unique looking long spoon that has a spoon on one end and counterweight on the other. The shaft is long and twists into a spiral. Typically they are about 12 to 15 inches long. The spiral shaped shaft and counterweight are the keys to making this iconic utensil easy to smoothly spin, stirring the cocktail. This is a nice example (pictured here). Amazon Link
A cocktail strainer is an essential bar tool. It is used when shaking or stirring to hold back the large chucks of ice and other solids from going into your Craft Cocktail. The metal spring fixed around the edge of the strainer fits inside the rim of your mixing glass. This allows you to use various sized mixing vessels and you still get that good strain. In some Craft Cocktails there is a need to double strain when there are small bits, like pits from fresh juice, but you still use the cocktail strainer to hold back your ice. This is a nice example (pictured here). Amazon Link
How a to stir Craft Cocktails like a Craftsman
Seeming to be a simple thing, stirring with a bar spoon can actually take some practice to look smooth. Don't go at mixing Craft Cocktails heavy handed. Keep it steady, smooth, and slow. You are a Cocktail Craftsman, be patient and take it easy.
Make sure you have a clean bar spoon.
Fill your mixing glass about halfway with ice.
Add your cocktail ingredients, be sure to measure your pours.
Hold the bar spoon between your thumb and first two fingers. You will want to hold the spoon near the top.
Twirl the shaft back and forth and up and down. If done properly the spoon should seem to float effortlessly inside and around the ice and ingredients.
Continue stirring until the outside of the glass has a slight frost. Typically 30 seconds. Because your mixing glass has a heavy base, you don't have to worry about it sliding around.
Keeping the spoon in the glass, place a cocktail strainer on the rim of the glass. The spoon should be resting at the back of the cocktail strainer near the handle.
Pour your Craft Cocktail into the desired cocktail glass.
That's it. Practice often and enjoy!