Welcome to The Muddler! We'll be using this blog to tell stories, share bits of knowledge and history, and generally celebrate the world of mixed drinks.
As a first entry, we'll get this perennial puzzle out of the way: When should you shake a drink, when should you stir it, and what difference does it really make?
A quick Internet search will give you a range of opinions on this subject, but most people agree on a few general rules:
Simple enough, but why? In both cases, you are really trying to accomplish two different things -- blending the ingredients for consistency throughout the glass, and (when there's ice involved, which is usually) chilling the drink and drawing off a little water from the ice for dilution, which helps smooth your mixture.
In a drink with all clear liquids, for example a Negroni (gin, vermouth and Campari), stirring will be sufficient to bring them together. Anything rougher will aerate the drink and give you bubbles that will turn it slightly cloudy, detracting from its crisp appearance. With liquids of different weights or acidity, the more vigorous action of the shake will ensure a thorough blend -- and in some cases, say in a drink with egg whites or dairy, you need the aeration to give you the foam or fizz you're looking for.
My favorite experiment on this topic comes from the adventurous souls at Booze Nerds, who a few years ago decided to put the conventional wisdom to the test. You can read all about their results here, but the bottom line is that the rules held up.
But wait, you say -- what about James Bond? In Ian Fleming's books and the movies derived from them, the spy who loves martinis almost always orders them "Shaken, not stirred." That's a clear-liquid drink that any bar manual will tell you ought to be stirred over ice and decanted. How could the suave defender of Her Majesty's honor make such a blunder? There are assorted theories, none definitive. There is some evidence that Fleming, a dedicated day drinker, preferred his martinis prepared with a shake. There is also the suggestion that it was a way of signifying Bond's rough-and-tumble roots -- he's more of a brawler than a gentleman. Whatever the reason, it has no doubt led to generations of first-time martini drinkers giving the same instruction to indulgent bartenders the world over. And why not? At Libacious, we'll give you our best advice on drink preparation, but we're happy to make it your way.