This entry was posted on Monday, March 2nd, 2009 at 11:12 am and is filed under Cocktail basics, Drink. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
When it comes to making cocktails, one of the most intimidating things, at least to some of us, is the shake. We worry that the liquid will spill, that the glass will break (if we’re using a Boston shaker), that the top will get stuck, that we’ll look stupid, that somehow we’ll just screw it up.
In fact, it’s a pretty easy skill to master, but it does involve a bit of practice — and a few special techniques. Here’s how to do it.
1. First, you need to know when to shake and when to stir. The general rule is: For all-spirits drinks — your Martinis and Manhattans — and any drink with bubbles, you stir; for drinks made with juice, cream or eggs, you shake.
Shaking does a number of things. Like stirring, it mixes the ingredients together and chills them. Unlike stirring, it also aerates the drink, adding froth or bubbles, depending on the ingredients. It also adds more ice and water than stirring, which can smooth out the harsh edges of alcohol in, say, a Sidecar or Cosmo. It can release additional essential oils from herbs or muddled fruit. And, according to James Bond lore, it can also separate out any poisons in the drink, which is handy to know if you hang out with, say, Blofeld and the boys.
2. Next you need the right kind of ice. Ice is a whole, huge topic on its own, which we’ll look into separately, but the very basics are: the ice should be very cold (that is, straight from the freezer and not all melty); it should be freshly made (not all stinky from sitting in the freezer for weeks or months); it should be in cubes (anything smaller will make the drink too watery); and it should be the last thing you place in the shaker.
3. Gather all your tools and ingredients, your reamer and knife and jigger and your spirits, juices, bitters, etc. Now you’re ready to go.
4. If you’re using a Boston shaker, measure your ingredients into the glass, starting with the spirits and ending with freshly squeezed juices. (If you’re using a classic shaker, place the ingredients in the bottom half.) If you like, give the drink a quick stir and, using a straw, taste it to see if the flavours are well balanced.
5. Add a healthy handful of ice.
6. Place the lid on the classic shaker or, if you’re going the Boston shaker route, place the tin upside down over the glass. Make sure it’s straight, give the bottom of the tin (which is now the top of your shaker) two firm taps to make sure it has an airtight seal, then flip it over so the glass is on top.
7. The shake. Pick up your shaker in both hands — I like to place one on top and one on bottom for added leverage and security — and start shaking, up and down, up and down. Shake it hard, shake it fast, and shake it long. As the saying goes, you want to wake up the drink, not put it to sleep.
(There are some bartenders who shake with one hand, and some who shake with a kind of paint-mixing sideways rocking motion, but I’ve seen enough glasses go flying to suggest that this may not be the technique you want to start with.)
8. How long? If you’re making an eggy or creamy drink, you’ll want to shake for at least a minute — the Ramos Gin Fizz is classically shaken for two full minutes, with bartenders switching off halfway through. Otherwise, you want to shake until the outside of the glass is so cold to the touch that it hurts, which usually takes about 15 to 30 seconds.
9. Take the lid off. Now, here’s where I get a bit freaked out, because my lids always get stuck. Dale DeGroff told me just to tap the side of the glass at the sweet spot and it’ll break the seal, but I’ve never managed the trick. Maybe I just don’t have the strength, dunno. What I do instead, and I’m sure it’s terrible technique but it works, is I bang the side of the tin against the edge of the counter and it does the same thing, so I can just lift the glass off without stress.
10. Strain the drink into the glass. Before you do, taste it to make sure the balance is good. Then slap your strainer over the mouth of the tin. You might also want to double-strain the drink — your Hawthorn strainer, the one with the curly wire thing, strains out the ice and any big chunks of fruit, but if you want to trap pulp, berry seeds and shreds of herbs, you’ll need a small mesh strainer to hold over the glass.
Then pour away, and enjoy. Cheers!