Shakey Shakey baby

I love the videos of people doing the japanese hard shake. It’s really cool to watch. If you scroll back a few posts, there is the Bacardi true original videos of it. Also, you can watch Eric Lorincz at the Connaught here.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/video/2010/mar/02/how-to-make-perfect-martini (this is an interesting video regardless of your will to see him do his thing).

I have spent much time obsessing and criticising and understanding and misinterpreting the science of shaking and temperature and figured i would eventually have something definitive to post up. In my own opinion anyway. How wrong was i??!!??

I spent some time this week with Chris Lacey (former Met Bar, Connaught, Lab) who has a wonderful, bartender paradise of a bar in a small gastropub in Exeter called Oddfellows (the upstairs supercool bar where Chris and his apprentice, Chris do their thing is called the Speakeasy). I was there as i had been saying i would go visit for some time and had yet to do so (2yrs later, sorry Chris) and it fortunately coincided with a tasting of Makers Mark that i had done before and would be doing again the day after in Plymouth. I had the day free, so why not.

Now after some Makers, some food, some ale, some wine, we were sat in our little crew and pontificating about drinks and shaking and the like. It was in remembering this conversation in the hazy light of the morning after that i was reminded of how far i had yet to go in reaching any sort of personal conclusion about how i feel on this subject. All i seem to do is open up more questions.

All i have to go on is my initial teaching, my experience and the teaching of others to go on. What influences my feeling on the subject is the interaction of these 3 sources of knowledge and their own influence on each other in my bartenders head.

There is an inclination for me to try to understand the science behind what i do and the laws of physics at work in some sort of attempt to produce tighter, tastier, more controlled drinks. Striving for perfection in execution should be the aim of all bartenders! So i started thinking about experiments i’ve tried myself, and that others have done. Rob Rademaker of Bols Genever taught me some interesting things regarding temperature and dilution, i’ve listened with intrigue to bartenders of great repute talk about drinks they’re making, why, the thinking behind them and i’ve seen all manners of shakes. And i have reached a conclusion of sorts.

It’s a careful balance between science and style, and there are arguments for shaking this way over that way. Large ice with small surface area in a shaker is better because of the relationship between dilution and surface area. Don’t use really wet -ice as your drink will have dilution -before you even start to shake. Although a large fist sized piece of ice would be great to shake with, air and space between ice is kind of crucial, you need aeration and space to change texture and fold air into the drink. Friction and movement should affect the final temperature of a drink but should you factor it in to your practice. Should you dry shake when using egg white?

Interestingly, the extensive work and discussion over at this blog following last years Tales of the Cocktail highlights some really interesting -issues when it comes to dilution and temperature. In fact, the results of their experiment seem to -suggest, no matter on style or type of ice particularly, after 30 seconds or so, the differentiation in results is minimal and hardly detectable by the regular guy or gal who’s 2 drinks in!


Also, i feel like i should address here the old question of stirring or shaking. Probably the most irritating, oft quote line to a bartender “ay ay, James Bond eh, just like him, shaken not stirred! eh?” Grrrrrrrr! I have a way i stir and a way i shake that i’m happy with, but there is an interesting point to note here which doesn’t relate to style but a core difference between the two.

The legendary Peter Dorelli, former head bartender at the Savoy. A man with some serious style!

The legendary Peter Dorelli, former head bartender at the Savoy. A man with some serious style!

Stirred drinks and shaken drinks should hold no difference in the end result of dilution or core temperature. The difference is in longevity. A shaken drink will get to it’s optimal temperature (around  -8 degrees) much quicker than a stirred one. However, the drink will stay colder for less time as the air within the drink will warm the core temperature quicker. A stirred drink by comparison will retain it’s chilly loveliness for much longer although it takes more work to get it there in the first place.

Should i stir or shake….? A gimlet, a martini, a manhattan: i want them to stay cold for as long as possible, so i should stir.A negroni, an old fashioned, stir them but pleasdon’t serve them up. I can understand the thinking but the beauty in the drink is -the unravelling complexity. Shake my sours, shake the bejeezus out of them – i want that frothy, frothy goodness!

Back to shaking and the science cos as usual, i digress.

Your shake, no matter how you choose should be consistent. The truth is, no matter how you shake, the chances are you are not the only person to work that bar. When assessing shaking effects to the point of fractions of degrees in temperature, the nerdiness kinda outweighs the practical reality.

Don’t get me wrong, i’ve just spent 4 hours swotting up on Entropy and ethanol/water temperature conditions and i completely embrace the science behind it. But it would appear that save for changing shakes slightly for say American style cocktails full of booze as oppose to that of lovely frothy drinks employing the use of egg white. So as long as your shake is long enough, not over worked (over diluted) and the same each time you make that drink, then no matter. It should just look good and the drink taste good.

I’m more of a believer in service anyways. I can forgive someone a 1.5 degree aberration (about the degree of differentiation that seems to be possible given a normal bartender using plenty of ice in a shaker) in temperature but not a 1.5 min aberration in saying hello when i come to the bar. I’m interested to hear if anyone is using or seen bars actually using a selection of different shakers as well as different ice to shake different drinks.


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