The Reason You Should Always Shake Your Whiskey Sour Before Serving

A classic whiskey sour begins with a good bourbon or rye whiskey, includes fresh lemon juice, and is sealed with simple syrup. You can also include egg white for a silky texture and frothy finish if you prefer. Once you've combined the ingredients, you're almost ready to serve your cocktail. All it's missing is a good shake, which is the most important step to nailing a whiskey sour.

Shaking a whiskey sour is so essential that you sometimes have to do it twice. If you've included egg white, shaking the mixture before adding ice is the very first step. This is called a dry shake. By doing so, you encourage the egg white to combine with the juice, whiskey, and syrup while introducing tiny air bubbles into the drink. So, don't skip this part if you like a full-bodied cocktail that's rich and foaming at the top.

The second shake happens after you add ice. This wet shake, which goes on for roughly 12 seconds if you do it right, helps to dilute the cocktail while chilling it. You can indeed achieve this by stirring your whiskey sour instead, but you'd have to stir it for considerably longer. Compare that to shaking, which takes less time, breaks up the ice for faster dilution, and lands a far more refreshing cocktail.

When to shake vs when to stir a cocktail

There's a general rule to follow when mixing cocktails, and it goes like this: Whenever a cocktail includes juice, dairy, cream, or egg whites, you should shake it. Shaking combines the ingredients thoroughly in a way that stirring won't. Plus, it tones down the alcohol so that the cocktail tastes more pleasant and mellow. In addition to a whiskey sour, you're also better off shaking rather than stirring a margarita, which includes lime juice, tequila, and triple sec. 

On the other hand, cocktails that include spirits and bitters should only be stirred. This less vigorous approach minimizes the chances of over-diluting your cocktail while emphasizing its flavors. All you have to do is stir it gently for 30 seconds and it's ready. Over-stir the cocktail and you will ultimately water its contents down. It's quite simple. Think of spirit-heavy drinks like a classic Manhattan cocktail that includes whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters, or a martini with gin or vodka and vermouth, as the perfect candidates for being stirred — never shaken.