A picture of two cocktails being made. One stirred and one shaken.

Shaken vs. Stirred Cocktails

When making cocktails, the methods of mixing ingredients play a pivotal role in the final taste, texture, and appearance of the drink. There are two primary ways to mix the ingredients: shaking and stirring. Understanding when to use each method is essential in order to make the perfect cocktail every time. So, let’s take a look at when you should stir cocktails and when you should shake them.

Which Cocktails Should You Stir?

Stirring is a gentle method used for ‘spirit-forward’ cocktails, where the dominant flavor comes from the alcohol. This technique, typically done with a long bar spoon in a mixing glass, combines ingredients smoothly without introducing too much air, maintaining the clarity and integrity of the spirits. Stirring is ideal for drinks where a clear, smooth texture is desired.

Take an Old Fashioned, for example. This drink consists of bourbon or rye whiskey, simple syrup, and a couple of dashes of Angostura Bitters. In this drink, most of the flavor comes from the bourbon/rye whiskey, making it a spirit-forward cocktail that should be stirred and not shaken. Here are some more examples of cocktails that should be stirred.

Examples of Cocktails That Should Be Stirred

  • Martini: A classic cocktail made with gin (or vodka) and dry vermouth, often garnished with an olive or a lemon twist.
  • Manhattan: A mix of whiskey (usually rye or bourbon), sweet vermouth, and a dash of Angostura bitters, traditionally garnished with a cherry.
  • Negroni: Made with equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth, this cocktail is usually garnished with an orange peel.
  • Old Fashioned: A simple combination of bourbon or rye whiskey, sugar, water, and Angostura bitters, garnished with an orange slice or twist and a cocktail cherry.
  • Rob Roy: Similar to a Manhattan but made with Scotch whisky instead of rye or bourbon.
  • Boulevardier: A whiskey-based cousin of the Negroni, made with bourbon or rye, Campari, and sweet vermouth.
  • Sazerac: A New Orleans classic made with rye whiskey or cognac, a sugar cube, Peychaud’s bitters, and a rinse of absinthe.
  • Vieux Carré: A complex mix of rye whiskey, cognac, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, and both Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters.
  • Dry Martini: A variation of the classic Martini, made with gin and dry vermouth in varying ratios, garnished with a lemon twist or an olive.
  • Gibson: A Martini variant that is garnished with a pickled onion.

Which Cocktails Should You Shake?

Cocktails containing juices, cream, eggs, simple syrup, or other opaque or thick ingredients are usually shaken using a cocktail shaker. This method not only thoroughly mixes the ingredients but also introduces air, creating a frothy, well-chilled drink. Shaking is especially effective for achieving a balanced flavor and pleasant texture in cocktails with components that are harder to mix.

Take an Espresso Martini, for example. After pouring vodka, Kahlua, and espresso into a shaker filled with ice, this mixture is shaken to not only mix and chill the drink, but also to aerate the espresso, giving the drink its signature frothy top. Here are some more examples of cocktails that should be shaken and not stirred.

Examples of Cocktails That Should Be Shaken

  • Margarita: A popular Mexican cocktail made with tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur, typically served with a salted rim.
  • Daiquiri: A simple yet classic cocktail made with rum, lime juice, and sugar.
  • Whiskey Sour: A blend of whiskey, lemon juice, and sugar, often garnished with a cherry and an orange slice.
  • Pisco Sour: Made with Pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, and a dash of bitters.
  • Mojito: A refreshing Cuban drink made with white rum, lime juice, sugar, mint, and soda water.
  • Cosmopolitan: A stylish cocktail consisting of vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and freshly squeezed or sweetened lime juice.
  • Sidecar: A classic cocktail made with cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice.
  • Caipirinha: Brazil’s national cocktail, made with cachaça, sugar, and lime.
  • Tom Collins: A fizzy mix of gin, lemon juice, sugar, and carbonated water.
  • Mai Tai: A tropical Polynesian-style cocktail made with rum, lime juice, orgeat syrup, and orange liqueur.