Shaken Vs Stirred: What's Right For Your Cocktail?

Many bartenders would agree that James Bond's signature martini order is wrong since it's believed shaking the drink bruises the alcohol. The martini isn't the only cocktail that shouldn't be shaken. When to shake a cocktail as opposed to stirring it has been hotly debated for a long time, but in general, if the drink only involves different types of alcohol — like gin or vodka and vermouth in the case of the martini — then it should be stirred. If the cocktail contains ingredients other than alcohol, like juice, egg whites, or milk products, it should be shaken.


We'll get into the nitty gritty below, but first, we need to discuss the need for mixing the drink in the first place. Besides combining the ingredients, mixing a drink with ice — whether shaking or stirring — chills the drink and dilutes the alcohol a bit, smoothing out its rough edges and helping combine the flavors for a unified drinking experience. Different cocktails require a different mixing method to achieve the perfect result. While a margarita should be light and frothy, a Negroni should be smooth and velvety. The first should be shaken, and the second should be stirred to achieve two different outcomes.

When to shake your cocktail

The cocktail shaker has been around since the mid-19th century and since then has remained center stage as the bartender's tool of choice for drink mixing. While some would say it is overused, If you're making a cocktail with a lot of different ingredients, a shaker is by far the best way to go. Alcohol and ingredients like citrus or cream don't combine easily and require a technique that will guarantee they don't separate in the glass while also helping to blend the disparate flavors. Shaking also aerates the ingredients for a lighter-tasting drink with a frothy head and quickly cools it down in a way that just can't match.


Grab a shaker and try our perfect margarita recipe that combines good tequila, Cointreau, fresh lime, and agave for a well-balanced summer evening staple. Other popular cocktails that are best shaken include White Russians, cosmopolitans, and the French martini (we threw this one in because it's the only martini that should be shaken since it contains pineapple juice).

When to stir your cocktail

Cocktails are built mainly of different types of alcohol, like the aforementioned Negroni that combines gin — and we recommend going with a bold gin choice for the perfect Negroni, such as one heavy on the juniper — Campari, and sweet vermouth. Since the entire drink is alcohol-based, stirring the ingredients in ice with a bar spoon is all that's required. You'll end up with a smooth and silky drinking experience. But beware, the Negroni can pack a punch, especially since stirring the cocktail doesn't dilute the alcohol as much as shaking does.


Other commonly stirred cocktails include the Manhattan, the old-fashioned, and the boulevardier. What about muddled drinks like the mint julep? While it can depend on the number and type of ingredients, the cocktail should be stirred in this case since it's made mostly from bourbon, with mint and simple syrup being the only other ingredients. Now that you know when to shake and when to stir a cocktail, feel free to debate this with your favorite bartender. We're sure they'll have an opinion on the subject.