Why Shaken Cocktails Are Colder Than Their Stirred Counterparts

Certain bartenders put on a good show while mixing drinks behind the bar. From vigorous shaking to methodical gyrations, does all of this activity do anything to a drink, or is it just for performance?

While not as captivating, the light stirring of a cocktail is just as purposeful as loud, grandiose shaking. Recipes that can be served in the glasses they are made in are usually heavy on the alcohol. Vermouth, bitters, liqueurs, and spirits don't call for aggressive shaking, and less agitation with ice means a textured drink that is soft and silky. 

Stirred cocktails are usually like velvet on the palate. Unnecessarily shaking one of these drinks can add extra air that can break up the feel of the drink and water that dilutes the booze. Rob Roys, Manhattans, and Negronis can turn cloudy if shaken and are best stirred with a bar spoon so that the drinks remain clean. 

While stirring boozy drinks can help alcohol maintain its smoothness, shaking a cocktail can yield a chilled beverage that is slightly diluted, yet perfectly mixed.

James Bond knew what he was doing

Drink recipes that include a variety of ingredients like dairy, eggs, juice, and sour mix benefit from a bartender's confident grip on an ice-filled shaker. Though alcoholic ingredients will inevitably become diluted as a bartender shakes and breaks down pieces of ice inside the shaker, the flavors are thoroughly mixed, and the poured drink results in a perfectly balanced serve. Margaritas require a good shake, as mixing lime juice, tequila, and triple sec requires that extra effort to mix properly. The same goes for a Cosmopolitan. Because shaking a cocktail results in pieces of ice breaking off into the beverage, the poured drink will be colder than a drink that is stirred, and the poured drink is a bit more watered down than a drink that was simply stirred in a glass. 

Shake a cocktail if it needs to be blended in a way that a bar spoon can't quite accomplish (or if you're simply wanting a cold drink), but if you're serving up solid booze, reach for the spoon.