When to Shake and When to Stir a Cocktail

This is one of those galvanizing issues that can really show that you take quality cocktails even slightly seriously. Shaking a Manhattan is like serving your guests instant coffee. There, I’ve said it.

The question about When to Shake and When to Stir still confuses many, more so when you see contradictory information about this in different recipes for the same drink. The rule to follow here is really quite simple. “Stir drinks that are made with transparent ingredients, shake drinks that include cloudy ingredients.” The reason for this is mostly due to aesthetics. Drinks served in a beautiful clear glass, look better when they themselves are clear and transparent. Shaking a drink will often make it cloud up, and make it unappealing. Often it will also put a scummy looking foam residue on the top which makes it even more unappealing. If the drink already includes cloudy ingredients (such as a citrus juice, cream, or egg white) then no amount of stirring will make it clear, so go ahead and shake it.

A corollary of our simple rule, is this: “It is rarely wrong to stir a drink, but often wrong to shake it.” Which makes it all the more surprising when you see bartenders who not only shake all of their drinks, but don’t even have the tools necessary to stir a drink if they wanted to. So the next time you find yourself making a Martini, Manhattan, Negroni, or Derby, take a little extra time and stir it instead of shaking it.


2 oz American whiskey (rye or bourbon)

3/4 oz sweet vermouth

1 dash The Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters


Stir with ice.

Strain into a cocktail glass.

Garnish with a cherry.


Thiago Ceccotti 16 Oct 2014
8:56 pm

Looking forward to those new videos.
But this new player takes forever to load :/

blair frodelius 17 Oct 2014
8:17 am


So true!  In my area, all cocktails are shaken.  Often when I ask for a stirred drink, I watch the bartender trying to find something to use as a barspoon.  Of course, Gary Regan carries his “special” stirrer with him everywhere he goes, but in a pinch I will often suggest a straw, hashi, ice cream soda spoon, or if none of those can be located; you can simply move the barglass in a circular motion for about 30 seconds, and it works pretty well.



111Dan 18 Oct 2014
6:09 pm

Your manhattan example is a slam dunk. Who wants a manhattan that looks like an IPA? Where shaken vs. stirred is actually an issue is in the case of the martini. Martinis are “clear,” but my friends and I all prefer to shake them really hard. But then we take the idea that a martini should be cold seriously: gin, glasses, and ice all start at 0°F (or colder). When the glass emerges from the freezer it frosts up instantly. The martini comes out of the shaker a slightly frothy gray mass larded with little ice chips, and it is really, really cold and stupendously delicious. The first sip or three is one of life’s great experiences. Within a minute or so the drink clarifies — something like an absinthe louche in reverse.

I’ve seen videos of you (and others) making martinis with bar ice at 32°F++, glasses that have had a few of those same ice cubes sitting in them for a few minutes, and room-temperature ingredients — all the while talking about how a martini has got to be cold. Not to be cruel or derisive or anything, but we think this approach is delusional.

I go through a stirring phase from time to time. Same 0°F stuff plus a mixing glass, bar spoon, and strainer top. It is a slightly different drink — noticeably less dilution and virtually no ice chips, and a very different esthetic mixing and pouring which is part of the overall “cocktail experience.” There are actually some semi-interesting issues in the shaken vs. stirred martini case. Try Plymouth Navy Strength at 6:1 with a dash of Berg & Hauck’s Orange Bitters with gin, ice, and glasses at 0°F — shaken hard about 70 times. Your life will never be the same.

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