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The Fascinating History Of Shaking And Stirring Cocktails

Posted by Evan Prish on

Have you ever wondered why some cocktails are supposed to be stirred with a bar spoon instead of shaken in a cocktail shaker? The answer itself is fairly simple on the surface, but gets surprisingly complex the deeper you dig.

In the early days of the modern bar industry, classic cocktails such as Martinis and Manhattans were universally stirred by bartenders. Much of this changed after the release of Ian Fleming's 1953 novel Casino Royale, in which the main character James Bond orders a Martini "shaken not stirred."

At the time, this went completely against the conventional method on how to make a Martini. This is because shaking a cocktail will make that cocktail appear cloudy, and sometimes even foamy, when you pour it into a glass. The process of shaking the liquid makes it opaque, and thus a shaken Martini will simply not possess the same amount of aesthetic appeal as a stirred one.

When a cocktail is stirred, the cocktail’s transparency and consistency is preserved. A crystal-clear finished product is exactly how a Martini was originally meant to be served and remains how most cocktail bars serve Martinis today. It's sophisticated, sexy and looks like an oasis in a desert as the bartender brings it over to you. You can quote us on that!

While there's nothing sacrilegious about shaking a Martini, it is not how the original cocktail was meant to be crafted. Plain and simple.

 

Pictured above, The Martini Bar Spoon from The Millennium Road.  Click the picture for more information about this product.

 

However, rules are always meant to be broken. James Bond (really Ian Fleming) was a cocktail visionary. Not only was it an unconventional method of the time to shake a Martini, but the process of shaking a cocktail with ice will actually get it colder much quicker than stirring a cocktail with ice will. This is where the complexity comes in, aka the thermodynamics of a cocktail (literally.)

When ice is added to a room temperature liquid such as alcohol, heat is transferred from the ice to the alcohol. This in turn cools the liquid and melts the ice. When ice and alcohol are put in a shaker and subsequently shaken together, the warmer alcohol is continuously circulating to the surface of the ice, thus melting the ice and lowering the temperature of the alcohol even faster.

Didn't know you were going to get a science lesson today, did you?

While this process essentially works the same with stirring, the speed at which it is accomplished is simply not the same as shaking. Any bartender will tell you giving a cocktail just a couple short shakes will get it ice cold immediately, while about twenty stirs will do the job in regard to stirring.

However, James Bond did not invent the art of shaking cocktails in general. Cocktails have been shaken since the mid-1800s, when the modern profession of mixology took its very first baby steps.

The original way bartenders would chill cocktails is by a method referred to as 'rolling.' This process involves using two tins or cups with ice to pour the alcohol back and forth between them until it is chilled to the bartender's desire. If you make your own cocktails, you've most likely used this technique at least once without realizing what it's actually referred to as.

The method of shaking a cocktail came as a bit of an accident. While no account of the tale can be truly verified, legend has it that the first bartender to incorporate shaking in their practice was an innkeeper during the mid-1800s.

While using the rolling technique to craft cocktails for guests at his inn, the innkeeper noticed that one of the two tins he was using had a slightly smaller mouth than the other. In a spur of the moment decision that changed the cocktail world forever, he put the mouth of the smaller tin to the mouth of the larger tin and held them together. He then used both of his hands to shake the two tins together, creating some light entertainment for his guests in the process. Thus, the art of shaking was born.

Similar to how an old saying goes, there are many ways to mix a cocktail.

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