The Key Difference In Dry And Wet Shaking Drinks

"But wait," you ask, "aren't all cocktails technically wet?" And you'd be correct. The key difference in dry and wet shaking drinks has nothing to do with the liquid, though. It all comes down to the ice.

The two most common types of shake in the bartender's arsenal are called "dry" and "wet." Shaking — in any capacity or technique — determines three key factors in a cocktail: aeration, dilution, and temperature. Wet shakes use ice, and dry shakes don't. Notably, however, after a vigorous initial dry shake, a drink is typically shaken a second time with the addition of ice to chill it.

There's a scientific reason why the simple addition or omission of ice makes such a difference for a finished cocktail. It's easier for liquids to emulsify at a higher temperature, which means more aeration and subsequently more foam. That signature thick, frothy mouthfeel is all thanks to the simple magic of the dry shake. Alternatively, some bartenders prefer the "reverse dry shake," in which the drink is initially shaken over ice, strained back into the shaker, and shaken again without ice. This technique produces an even headier foam cap.

When to employ a wet shake, and when to use the dry shake

In a dry shake, the ingredients are shaken at room temperature. If the idea of a tepid cocktail sounds a little less than enticing, don't trip; remember that the dry shake is only step one. This technique is used for drinks containing ingredients that need extra aeration, like eggs, cream, or the vegan alternative aquafaba (aka the water from a can of chickpeas). Dry shaking is also used for drinks made with fruit juices or purees. It's the go-to technique for achieving frothiness in the Amaretto Sour, Clover Club, and Sloe Gin Fizz, among others. To do it, the ingredients are added to a shaker, sans ice, and shaken for 30 to 60 seconds. Some mixologists add a Hawthorne strainer to their initial dry shake as a kind of whisk to help the ingredients incorporate together, but it's really a matter of individual preference.

In a wet shake, adding ice both chills the drink and adds slight dilution, making it the right technique for daiquiris, mai tais, Cosmopolitans, and countless others. (Pro tip: post-strain, take a peek at the ice remaining in the bottom of the shaker. If the cubes are nicely rounded and not shattered, then your technique is spot-on.) Wet shakes require different durations, depending on who you ask, but most bartenders agree that somewhere between 7 and 19 seconds (rather specific, we think) with varying degrees of intensity will get the job done.