Let’s Shake Things Up!
Happy Monday! So far we’ve talked about drinks that are built and drinks that are stirred, two methods of making cocktails that yield a clear finished product with very little texture at all. If we take a look at the drink above we immediately see that it’s neither clear nor smooth. That’s because this is a shaken drink, and the whole purpose of preparing it this way is to emulsify the ingredients and infuse the cocktail with texture in the form of air bubbles. This cocktail also contains both citrus juice and egg whites, two ingredients that require shaking in order to be properly incorporated. As soon as you see either of them in a recipe you know you’ll be taking your shaker out! So let’s get down to the details.
We start by measuring and pouring our ingredients into a cocktail shaker. What you see pictured above is the smaller half of a Boston shaker. It measures 16 oz. and the larger half measures 28 oz. I always build the drink in the smaller half and then add my ice. In terms of which ice to use, I found the information in Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold to be truly helpful. He painstakingly conducted experiments to see what effect different sized ice cubes had on shaken cocktails and concluded that the best combination is one large cube and 2 small. To be honest, I really didn’t believe this at first. What difference could it possibly make? So I followed Arnold’s suggestion and did the experiment at home. Just as he predicted the cocktail with the large and small cubes had the best texture by a long shot.
Once we’ve added all our ingredients, the next step is to seal the shaker. To do this I place the larger half on top of the smaller half and give it a good whack with my palm. The pressure inside the shaker from the changing temperature builds up and helps to seal the two tins together. To get ready to shake I invert the tins (so that the smaller one is on the top and the larger one is on the bottom) and I point the bottom half away from me at an angle. The reason for this is so that if the tins were to separate the drink would end up all over me, not my guest. Now I’m ready to shake – this is the best part! Rather than shaking in a back and forth motion, I like the recommendation from Death & Co. to think of moving the shaker in a fast arc so that the ice cubes are spinning around inside, rather than slamming back and forth. This means less breakage and less chance of too much dilution. I shake the drink for a good 10 -15 seconds; I want it to get very cold. I shake for less time if I’m making a drink like a Cucumber Collins that will be served over ice. There is also something called a dry shake that’s used when there are egg whites in the drink. You seal the tins and shake vigorously with no ice to get the egg whites nice and foamy, then add your ice and shake again to chill. After I’m finished shaking, I separate the tins by holding them in my right hand and giving another good whack with my left palm right about where the two tins are joined together. Alternatively (and I like this better) I squeeze the larger tin in that same approximate spot and push against the smaller one until the seal breaks.
Before I actually pour my drink, I place my larger half of the shaker into the smaller half (you can see that above). It’s just a good habit to get into and it helps to keep your work area neat. I double strain my drink into a chilled cocktail glass using a Hawthorne strainer and a mesh strainer. This is to be sure to keep small pieces of ice out of the finished drink. We’re now ready to garnish and serve! As with the building and stirring techniques we’ve already covered, try to develop a regular pattern when shaking your cocktails. This creates consistency and that’s the hallmark of a great bartender!
Check back tomorrow and Wednesday for recipes!