Bartending 101

When to Shake & When to Stir Your Cocktail

shaken cocktail

James Bond is famous for preferring his Martinis shaken, not stirred, and being the debonair, ladykiller that he is, you would assume he knows what he is talking about.

Turns out, not so much.

Classic Martinis, along with Negronis and Boulevardiers, are among the numerous cocktails that should never be shaken. But how do you know for sure when stirring is the appropriate course of action? Just follow these general guidelines:

If Your Drink Is Made With:

  • Citrus
  • Egg whites
  • Dairy

Shake It.

shaken cocktail

When any one of the above are present in a cocktail, preparing it in a Boston or Cobbler shaker has a number of advantages. First, because these ingredients have different densities than alcohol, the dynamics of shaking ensure they thoroughly combine with spirits. Shaking also introduces air bubbles that give cocktails like the Corpse Reviver No. 2, the Hurricane, and any number of tiki drinks, for instance, a certain lightness and a pleasantly frothy texture. Finally, shaking introduces tiny ice shards that dilute a drink more readily than stirring. And in some cases, more dilution is a good thing.

If Your Drink Is Made With:

  • All spirits

Stir It.

stirred cocktail

Relatively speaking, spirits are equal in density, so shaking is not necessary to properly combine them into a homogeneous solution. And whereas shaking aerates a cocktail, stirring preserves the spirits’ silky texture and clarity. Finally, stirring protects against excessive dilution, which is important in something like a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned, which are drinks meant to retain a certain degree of stiffness. According to Gizmodo, shaking a drink made entirely of spirits may drop its proof by nearly 50 percent, compared to just 25 percent by way of stirring.

A Note on Carbonation


If a carbonated beverage like club soda, tonic water, ginger beer, cola, or sparkling wine is a building block of your cocktail, shaking after its addition is a definite no. To preserve the fizz, a gentle stir or two will suffice, and often just layering it--sans stirring--does the trick.

Now that you know when to use which cocktail mixing technique, you’re ready to learn how to shake, stir, and build to cocktail perfection.


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