Why Shake or Stir a Cocktail?


Cocktails have been around for a long time. Records claim that pitchers of punch were served during soirees across the colonial Caribbean and Americas back in the 17th century. These were humble mixtures of spirits, fruits, bitters etc. that we today call it a ‘Cocktail.’ Hostile territories but the product (Spirits/Liquor) across the colonies be it Spanish, French or Common Wealth was

The Evolution of Cocktails and Why You Should Move Away from the Cosmopolitans and Screwdrivers

There came a time when spirits like whisky became harsh on the palate. Someone had to find a way make them more palatable, we are talking early 19th century. There was talk about a new drink in New York, though stiff but very smooth on the palate called “The Old Fashioned Cocktail” or the “The Bitter Sling Cocktail”. It was a stirred concoction of sugar muddled with bitters, whiskey or at times brandy with a garnish of grated nutmeg. This roll of the dice brought about a change that would change the style of consuming alcohol forever. Not just this, many a classic Cocktail has brought about a similar change, like the mighty Sazerac. This era saw the mixing of liqueurs with harder spirits.

Old Fashioned Cocktail
The Bitter Sling Cocktail

Alcohol made more palatable

Let’s move on to the rather humble decade which had a behemoth influence on bartending, 1920’s. Many enthusiasts can thank this era for the innovation it brought about on cocktails. The prohibition lead to people wanting to drink more, and the unavailability of the product made the bootleggers to adulterate; pointing out again making alcohol more palatable. Speakeasies behind self-effacing establishments were serving men and women of authority stirred, shaken and poured tinctures of virtue. This time saw the birth of off-springs of Sours, Spritz, Martinis etc.

Europe has gifted us with most iconic liqueurs and spirits which led to the innovation of many an iconic Cocktail. But major credit has to go to the United States making the most out of them.

The Bar scene in India is progressing every day. There are so many talented people coming up with delicious and clever cocktails, which is why I write to persuade to give the over jaded Cosmos Cocktail and a Screwdriver a break. I will unapologetically drink a Mojito on a mid summer Sunday afternoon and relish a well made Bloody Mary on a New Delhi winter evening. But to give way, support and open your palate for not only the classics but the new ones that are most important. We will not be doing justice to the barmen and mixologists working days and nights perfecting the craft.

Screw Driver

The sign of a good bartender, like any good chef, is to make a delicious Cocktail out of basic spirits provided. Never expect a 15 year old single malt in a whiskey sour.

What we are looking at are two basic and classic methods of making a Cocktail. These are OG and responsible for most of the classic cocktails. These are namely shaken and stirred, two gateways to all the alcoholic goodness.

Why stir?

As popular as the James Bond movies are, the issue any purist would take is with the shaken Martini. There is no law against it, just how a Cocktail that is meant to be stirred can be elevated as opposed to putting it through the process of shaking it is unreal.

A stirred Cocktail is mostly a combination of a few spirits, liqueurs or bitters. Measured into a crystal glass with ice, stirred with a bar spoon and poured into a Cocktail glass either clear\ straight or on the rocks. A classic example is the above mentioned Martini, Negroni, old fashioned etc.

The Classic Martini

The idea is to dilute the composition of the alcohol with the ice to a certain limit where it becomes smoother than cream cheese spread on your bagel. The result would be a very sophisticated and well balanced concoction that compliments the spirits mixed in and perhaps giving you memories to talk about.

The easiest and a classical recipe would be the iconic Cocktail, Negroni. It was somewhere close to the 1920s when the Italian Count Negroni felt that his Americano (Campari, Vermont and Soda) needed a bit of strength and replaced the soda water with gin.

The Negroni

So here you have it, equal parts of gin, Campari and sweet red vermouth stirred with ice and poured into glass, on the rocks and garnished with orange peel. An easy dinner party started and delicious to the very last drop.

Why Shake?

This is a process, while easy is used to incorporate ingredients other than spirits in the cocktail. This provides the drink body, texture and for the lack of a better word. Classic examples, Whisky Sours and Ramos Gin Fizz.

Ramos Gin Fizz
Whiskey Sour

Mentioned before, apart from the liquor shaking would take ingredients that are fruit based, herbs, dairy, egg white etc. Basically, stuff that needs incorporation with a bit of force. Now if there is an example with instructions you want, then that is exactly what you will get.

When a chef applies for a job, he is asked to either prepare an omelette or scrambled eggs as a part of his selection criteria. Similarly, most bartenders \ mixologists would ask someone to prepare a classic Daiquiri if they wish to hire some new. It cannot get any simpler and fun.

A Daiquiri is mix of noble white rum, sugar syrup and fresh like juice with ratio of 2:1:1. Keeping a few things in mind, rum to be good, syrup smooth and lime juice fresh. All three ingredients to be poured in a Cocktail shaker with ice and shaken for a good quarter of a minute and strained straight in a chilled glass. And there you are, a simple and urbane concoction.

A frozen strawberry daiquiri

To end this with a simple note, you do not have to be brave to expose your palate to a new drink compared to the poison of your choice, it’s just being open to something that can bring about a pleasant change. It Is a perfectly good time to be alive in terms of what the food and beverage industry has to offer. Go to your favorite bar, take a friend, take a date or head there straight after work and give the barman a chance to surprise you and let that talent not go to waste.

pictures sourced from:

cocktail.lovetoknow.com; gastronomista.bigartel.com; epicurus.com; i FOODBlogger;

the spruceeats.com; mixthatdrink.com; warehousewines; babliquor.com; liquor.com;

totalwine.com; ginfoundry.com; barproducts.com; texasmonthly.com




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