Because tonight’s cocktail was just an enjoyable variant of the Upper West Side, I thought I’d talk briefly about the age-old question of shaken or stirred, which for some is a matter equal in importance to bathroom standards such as seat up or down and paper out or in; whereas for others it rises to the level of metaphysics.
At risk of advocating relativism, then, I say that the right way to mix a cocktail is a matter of preference. But as in most matters of preference, we should ensure that when mixing for others, we inquire as to their preference rather than imposing our own. So this is the most important factor. Note also that there may be some cocktails you prefer shaken, others stirred. That is also up to you.
That said, there are some important things to know, which might help you decide for yourself. This FAQ, while aimed at the Martini and engaging in what is no less than a debate between nominalism and conceptualism, provides some useful facts:
- A lot of ice melts during mixing of any kind. About 20% of the cocktail is water from the melted ice. This is ultimately good, as it helps to blend the spirits, but it means you want to have good quality ice.
- Shaking produces ice chips that float on the top of the cocktail. This is a matter of taste as to whether it is a good thing.
- For several reasons, shaking tends to create a cloudy appearance in the drink. Again, a matter of taste.
- Shaking chills the drink faster. If you are impatient, you must shake, because the drink must be cold.
My own preference, since you asked, is that I mix the drink in a shaker and then shake it horizontally in a circular fashion, which is mostly like stirring but is somewhat more convenient and also obtains some of the benefits of shaking in that it cools faster. Will, I believe, likes to shake drinks vigorously.
Once again, here are the rules you should follow:
- Learn how you like them, and make them that way.
- Ask your guests how they like them, and make them that way.
- Use fresh ice made from good water, because the water from the ice is one of the ingredients of the cocktail.