How To Know If A Cocktail Should Be Shaken Or Stirred

Do you dread pulling bartender duty whenever your significant other decides to host a party? Do you wish all of your guests would simply opt for a beer? If the words "martini shaker," "cocktail muddler," and "jigger," make you furrow your brow, you are far from alone. The world of mixology appears intimidating, with new exotic beverages becoming fashionable faster than you can say "Aperol spritz." The tools of the trade alone look like they require an advanced degree in engineering to operate. But fear not. The truth is that by learning a few common barkeep tricks-of-the-trade, you will be able to keep your guests happy and create memorable cocktails. 

One skill that will serve you well at social gatherings is knowing which cocktails need to be shaken, which drinks need to be stirred, and which ones require "building." Not only will your friends be impressed with your drink-mixing know-how, but you'll never hand over an unshaken Cosmopolitan or Daiquiri again. 

Mastering mixology may be easier than you think

The first step in mastering this skill is determining which alcoholic beverages need to be shaken. Bon Appétit recommends shaking any cocktail that involves "mixing booze with anything that isn't booze." So, if you're using fruit juices, egg, or cream, you'll be putting your shaker to work. Just remember, if the drink contains a carbonated beverage, add it after it's been shaken or you'll end up wearing someone's drink. Typically, bartenders shake drinks for about 10 seconds or until the stainless steel shaker becomes frosty. Examples include Mai Tais and Daiquiris. 

So, when should a drink be merely stirred? MasterClass advises that drinks that contain only spirits, tonics, or bitters should be stirred — as well as those that are constructed in the glasses in which they'll be served. When stirring, you want a smooth motion that doesn't agitate the liquid very much. This is done by using a bartender spoon and keeping the back of the spoon against the glass. According to, this motion should be 75% fingers and 25% wrist. The Manhattan and the Old Fashioned are cocktails that need to be stirred.  

Some drinks don't need shaking or stirring at all

Some drinks are neither shaken nor stirred. Referred to as "built" cocktails, these beverages must remain somewhat inert for two main reasons. Firstly, if it is made using anything sparkling, like a spritz, you will not want to stir it. And secondly, if the ingredients are meant to have a layered presentation, you will want to build the drink right in the glass that it will be served in. "Building" means pouring one ingredient on top of the other and leaving it. No stirring or shaking allowed. And, as The Spruce Eats reminds us, when pouring ingredients, "the liquor first approach is the one that almost everyone uses." Typical built cocktails include the Mojito and the John Collins. 

Armed with this information, you are now one step closer to becoming your neighborhood's best in-house mixologist. Your friends will no longer have to stick to bottles of beer or an uncomplicated rum and coke. You can welcome their cocktail requests without fear and dazzle them with your newfound technical know-how. Cheers.