Rule of thumb: Shake drinks with juice or egg. Stir drinks that are all booze. Of course, all rules and thumbs can be broken. Like the rest of this information none of this section is gospel. These are just the best ways I have found to make cocktails. Building blocks if you will. These are also the techniques I use to make the cocktails listed out later. Refer back here if you ever have a question about cocktail techniques.
The goal here is to chill liquid and pump it full of oxygen at the same time while diluting. I have seen a lot of fancy shaking in my time behind the stick but your look doesn't matter.
With a Boston shaker put your Ingredients in. A few chunks of ice or one large solid piece. Seal the shaker and shake it like it owes you money...it does. The idea here is to feel/hear the ice hit one end of the shaker and then force it back to the other over and over. Give it good ratatattat for ten-ish seconds. With just one large piece of ice you will need to shake longer to achieve a chilled and diluted drink. With the Boston shaker apparently the hardest part is getting those two pieces of metal apart. There is a perfect point on the shaker tin where they meet and make a straight edge. Follow the rim around until there is a tiny gap between the two tins. Smack it. Bingo. Remember: new tins will need breaking in so make lots of cocktails. Use a hawthorne strainer to hold the ice back and let the cocktail pour out. Use a mesh strainer to catch the ice bits if you like. I find that with one large piece of ice you won’t need to double strain.
My preferred method and tool is with a cobbler shaker. I start with the empty tin and I add my ingredients to it. I then add ice from smallest pieces to largest to fill the entire vessel. I place the top two pieces on and give them a smack to hold. Then I take off the cap and place it back on to "burp" the shaker more or less. These helps keep the whole thing from coming apart while shaking.
The technique for shaking with a cobbler is far different than shaking a Boston Shaker. I have found that the 500 ml cobblers fit in my hands well. You can find a size smaller or a size larger if you need. With the thumb of your dominate hand hold the cap in place and wrap that hand around the top of the shaker. Almost like palming a basketball (if I could do that). With your other hand balance the shaker underneath so it is suspended parallel to the ground and use your fingertips to hold the bottom.
Now begin to move the shaker back and forth but let your wrists be loose. Almost in a whip like motion. You are aiming for a cadence and also trying to treat the ice gently. It helps me to think more of the liquid moving back and forth around the ice as opposed to the ice crashing back and forth from end to end. It takes practice and to do that you can try shaking rice. It will help you find a rhythm and your own shaking pattern. Thinks happy thoughts!
You will feel the shaker getting colder and colder in your hands. This is good. I find that the cobbler takes a little longer than a Boston to chill and dilute appropriately. The other technique to master while using a cobbler is to try and aerate the drink as much as possible. You want the drink to have tiny micro bubbles that sit near the surface of the finished cocktail.
When the drink is done remove the cap and turn the shaker over your drinking vessel of choice to let it strain out. Here you can double strain through a mesh strainer if you like. Depending on the drink I may or may not. A little rattle helps get all the precious liquid out.
Shaking With Egg
The point of egg in a cocktail is to add some body and viscosity to the drink. All too often I see more egg white being used than is needed and a myriad of techniques to create a foam head that is actually pretty tough to drink around.
Just because a drink has egg white in it does not mean it needs a double shake/dry shake/wet shake then dry shake/dry shake while standing on one foot and then a wet shake while standing on the other etc. I have found more often than not simple sours shaken once with small amounts of egg white (15-20 ml) come out great. The mouth feel is exquisite because the egg is incorporated into the drink not floating on top as an elaborate garnish. Improper technique over time and Instagram cocktail porn has compounded on itself to ruin egg drinks.
For egg white drinks separate the whites from the yolks ahead of time. Whip the whites with a fork or bar spoon to break them up just a touch. Keep them in a small container or bottle for no more than 12 hours. For shaking a drink just shake normally once and strain. If we are talking about a Ramos the rules are out the window. That drink NEEDS the full double shake work. The whole point of the drink (aside from calming that Bourbon Street hangover) is the crazy thick head--bartenders from New Orleans to Tokyo hold pride in how tall their foam stands. I am a fan of the "reverse shake" when it comes to this drink and I also add my ingredients at different times between shaking.
When shaking with a whole egg or just the yolk I would build the drink as normal. Shake with ice as described above. Strain the drink into the other tin. Get rid of the ice and then dry shake to fluff and serve without straining again. Then I assume garnish with nutmeg or some other Christmas stuff.
My personal favorite bar technique aside from flirting. First off, the shaker tin you already have works great for stirring. Save yourself 40 bucks on a mixing glass (or snag a pint glass from a nice barman for free). The thing with the metal tin is that it gets cold instantly and hot instantly. Mixing glasses hold temperature and lead to inconsistent dilution unless you are planning for a warm or cold glass. Keep that in mind with your choice. Dave Arnold on the topic of glass or crystal mixing glasses says you must either always use chilled glasses or never use chilled glasses so as to stay consistent. I move for always use chilled glasses.
Process goes like this: Ice in the mixing glass. Pour water over the ice and stir like you would a cocktail to chill and remove the edges from the ice. Strain out the water (into a pitcher if you plan to reuse it) with a hawthorne strainer and build your cocktail quickly in the now chilled glass. Take a bar spoon and twirl it around the bottom edge of the glass. The goal is to have the back of the spoon always against the inside of the glass. The way you decide to hold the spoon is up to you. Confidence plays a huge role here. If you aren't perfect right away turn the bar spoon over so the business end is in the air and use the rounded bead on the bottom. Or use a chopstick like I do at my wife's parents house...or your finger. Practice with ice and water. Then see if you can do it with the other hand for bonus points. Then see if you can do two at once or even more! Practice. Practice.
Is dumping liquid back and forth between two tins when one contains ice. If you need to aerate without over chilling and diluting this technique comes in handy. It also looks super cool if you can figure it out. Marian Beke and Luca Cinalli who both spent time at Nightjar in London (129 City Rd) have a few “fancy” cocktail videos online that show this technique executed perfectly. Watching these two masters will explain it better than I can type it out.
Take two Boston tins of the same size (like two bottoms) and build your cocktail. As you get better you will figure out how to do it with a larger and smaller standard tin set. Ice one of the tins and place a julep style hawthorne strainer in the iced tin. You need a strainer that fits into the shaker tin like a julep strainer will but you want it to have a spring like a hawthorne strainer has. With your longer arm (or dominate hand) grab the tin with the ice in it. Hold it above your head and slowly pour the mixture into the other tin by holding it at your waist. You want to get a good drop for the liquid to travel. Start with small gaps. Keep your eye on the lower receiving tin. When all the liquid is in the tin with no strainer just hold them in front of you and empty it quickly back into the iced tin right over the strainer. Repeat. You will have to practice to make it work. This technique can create great mouthfeel for a cocktail.
Basically a neat way of agitating and stirring with crushed ice. It is done with a swizzle stick but you are can just use your bar spoon. Once your ingredients are in the glass glass top it off with crushed ice and then you twist the spoon like you are making a fire without matches. Move the spoon up and down. The increased surface area of the crushed ice will make the drink tooth hurting cold and that is all there is to it. Top with more crushed ice and serve with an umbrella.
Is used to incorporate vegetation or sugar or whatever else the kids are using these days into a drink by smashing and is usually overdone thusly chlorophyll is released by the plant matter and makes your drink all bitter and weird. I did not include a muddler in your equipment list so you can guess how I feel about this technique. If I am putting mint, in say a mojito, I just rough that stuff up with my hands and let the swizzle do the rest of the work. Cucumber in a shaken drink? Shake harder. If you are old school with your old fashioned and you want to use sugar cubes then pick one up. Who am I to tell you what the right way is to make an Old Fashioned at your house? I do not use a muddler behind the bar is basically what I mint to say from the start.
I got to work one night at Booker and Dax back when it was on 2nd Ave in Manhattan and got to see a whole plethora of techniques that I am not crazy enough to implement nor smart enough to explain correctly. My friend Austin Henely was tending bar there and invited me to see the ins and outs for a night and I felt like a kid in a candy shop. One of the techniques they used in a cocktail back then was nitro muddling. You would puts herbs in a shaker tin (I believe it was basil) and pour a tiny bit of liquid nitrogen over the top and then pulverize with a muddler. This would turn the herbs into a fine powder after the LN2 had disappeared. Then the drink could be built and shaken with perfect herb infusion. The flavor and color immaculately preserved in the finished drink.
So this one is controversial. Some people think you have to double strain everything to keep those little bits of ice out of your drink. Do you what you like. The new hawthorne strainers on the market are a vast improvement over what I started with and now take care of most of those icy bits. If I am using a cobbler strainer the shaker itself takes care of the majority and with the right shake the lil’ bits are small enough to be enjoyable. I now only double strain if I have vegetation (like mint or cucumber) in my shaken drinks...and I rarely do.
It seems as if the bar community is always pushing the envelope on techniques to makes drinks. I like to keep mine pretty simple. I do think rapid infusions with iSi canisters are great and that fat washing can do wonders for certain drinks. I also think techniques like that will come and go and that the simple straightforward ones will always be around. So those are the ones I try to perfect and the ones I like to use to make my drinks.
I like to make some of my drinks with spirits that I have left in the freezer for sometime. The idea behind this is to slow dilution and to keep the drink colder longer once in the glass. This process really shines with clear spirits. I find that when using darker spirits I would rather use higher proof room temp products and dilute and chill to a level I enjoy.
Shake it up!
Bar To Home
A simple translation from bar to home.