James Bond Was Wrong

With apologies and all due respect to our favorite British spy, let's review mixology policy about when to shake and when to stir.

Man with a dirty martini at a bar

We all have reasons to drink right now, and drink a lot, so it’s time for some cocktail knowledge. #nopoliticalreferencesbutdeargod.

If you’re making martinis, you might consider putting away the cocktail shaker. According to The Joy of Mixology, Martinis should be stirred, not shaken. Sorry 007. The “shaken-not-stirred” thing is a good catch phrase but apparently, it ruins a martini.

The reason? Shaking adds aeration, destroying the silky mouth-feel that’s the hallmark of a perfect martini. Worst of all, shaking a martini puts ice chips in the drink and dilutes it. The point of a martini is liquor, straight up. To many a bartender and connoisseur, watering it down is a sin akin to using PBR in a boilermaker. Martinis aren’t the only drinks that get shaken inappropriately.

Here’s what to shake and what not to shake.

The general rule of thumb: If a drink contains fruit juice, simple syrup, cream or egg whites, shake it. That’s because you want to aerate the drink, making it frothy and pretty. If it’s a drink that’s about the booze and without the sugary fruity crap, stir it.

There’s a third drink prep technique, building. It’s similar to stirring. Building a drink means you make it in the glass from which you’ll drink it. Do this when you’re making a drink with soda water or other carbonated ingredients and serving it on the rocks. Drinks you build: Vodka Tonic, Cuba Libre, Mojito, Bellini.

Cocktail and how to make them

Now a word about cocktail shakers. There are two types:

Cobbler: That’s the three-piece model you see in housewares stores and Nick and Nora Charles movies. It’s very pretty and shiny. It also sucks. Don’t buy one. The top sticks when it’s cold, making it tough to open. You’ll fight the shaker for your drink. Also, the built-in strainer makes for a slow pour. If you already have one of these, see below for how to correct the error.

Boston Shaker: This one has a metal tumbler for shaking and a glass for mixing. That’s it. It’s easy to open and affordable. You’ll need to buy a strainer, but they’re available everywhere and cost less than $10. If you’ve already bought one of those damn cobblers, throw away the lid and cap, keep the metal tumbler, add a big glass and voila, a DIY Boston shaker.

Finally, a word about cocktail spoons and stirring a drink.

Yes, you need to buy a cocktail spoon. A normal spoon doesn’t get it done. A cocktail spoon’s bowl holds about a teaspoon of liquid so it can be used for measuring. The bowl is flat and broad so you can use it for muddling. Its long, spiraled handle allows you to reach the bottom of a glass and twist the spoon so that you stir gently.

Overly enthusiastic stirring will smash the ice and dilute the drink prematurely. If you don’t have a cocktail spoon, an iced teaspoon will get it done. But you won’t look nearly as cool. Viva la Rat Pack!