This week we decided to look at the difference of shaking vs. stirring a drink. The accepted wisdom is that anything with fruit juice should be shaken and anything clear should be stirred. We’ve always assumed that this is for purely visual reasons, since shaking definitely makes clear drinks cloudier. But does it affect the flavor and texture? Are there up sides to shaking a traditionally stirred drink that balance out the loss of visual appeal? Read on to find out.
Some drinks obviously have to be shaken, such as sours and many tiki drinks, to create a foam or emulsify a thick or fatty ingredient like coconut cream. But it seems like shaking vs. stirring would be a wash with something like citrus, and that we shake them simply because it is faster and easier. Let’s see if that’s the case by experimenting with a Gimlet, a traditionally shaken drink.
- 1 1/2 oz gin (we used the Amethyst which has nice lavender notes)
- 1 oz St Germain
- 1 oz lime juice
- Nose: Elderflower, lime, hints of lavender and violet. Elderflower is more pronounced than in the stirred cocktail.
- Palate: Sweet elderflower and cucumber to start, followed by a hint of violet. Lavender and juniper on the mid-palate. Fairly tart, astringent finish. Gin is more predominant than in the stirred version. Slightly fuller body too.
- Nose: Predominately lime. Little bit of juniper and elderflower.
- Palate: Little bit of sweet elderflower and sweet lime to start. Bite of alcohol on the transition from the intro to the mid-palate. Lavender and a lot of sharp lime on the mid-palate. Very tart, dry finish, astringent and palate-coating. A fair bit tarter overall than the shaken version. Sweetens a bit as it warms up.
Overall we preferred the shaken one, however the stirred one would probably better with food, especially something rich as the tartness and astringency would help cut through the fats.
Next up we thought we’d try the same experiment with a drink that is traditionally stirred. Let’s see how the Fancy Free fares.
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1/2 oz maraschino
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- 1 dash orange bitters
- Nose: Bitter almond, cherry, caramel-y oak, orange. Light notes of coffee and cinnamon.
- Palate: Coffee, orange and chocolate to start. Sweet oak, cherry, cinnamon, and a hint of anise on the mid-palate. Bittersweet spicy finish with some green herbal flavors like boxwood on the finish.
- Nose: Similar to the shaken but more oak-forward, less of the almond and cherry. Touch of orange. No cinnamon. Has a little bit of dried vegetal smell like tobacco.
- Palate: Sweeter. Similar to the shaken but less fruity, more barrel notes. Slight tobacco-y vegetal notes that the shaken didn’t have. Hint of mint on the finish.
As they warm up, the flavor profiles of the two Fancy Frees start to converge. Both of them have more orange as they warm, however the shaken one still has stronger orange notes. Otherwise, they become pretty similar after about 10 minutes.
The shaken version was definitely cloudier and had a little bit of foam that lasted for a while. It did clear up eventually but remained slightly paler in direct comparison.
Overall it was a very interesting experiment. We expected that shaking vs. stirring would likely only have a visual difference, so we were surprised that it made a difference nose-and palate-wise as well. If you’re like us and all of your cocktails are for yourself or friends, it’s interesting to mix it up from time to time and try shaking things that are traditionally stirred and vice versa, just to see how it turns out. However, if you focused on presentation you’ll definitely want to stick to stirring for those drinks that call for it. The clarity and lack of foam on the cocktail do make for better presentation.