When to shake, when to stir, cocktails and dilution

Ingredients, add ice, shake it up, or stir it up? And what separates an okay cocktail from a great cocktail? It can be tricky to get just the right amount of dilution in a cocktail. Balance is key to a great drink and depends on a few factors: the non-alcoholic components of the drink, the drinker, and how many drinks the drinker has had.

One of the non-alcoholic components of the drink [and the most important ingredient in the drink] is ice. The right kind and amount. Spirit heavy drinks require large ice cubes, citrus drinks are best served with cubed ice, and vaca-style cocktails are strewn over crushed ice. Ice is the key to adjusting the dilution of the cocktail until it is perfect for you. Of course, this may mean that it’s too diluted or not enough for someone else. One of the many reasons we believe that bartending is an Art.

The appropriate amount is arguably what makes a cocktail what it is. This is generally achieved by adding ice in 1 of 2 ways - shaking or stirring. Most cocktail recipes require one over the other.
Let’s compare:


Shaken cocktails have a different dilution range than those stirred. Shaking breaks up solids and is vital for drinks that include milk or cream. Though it’s more effective, it can result in a cloudy drink.


Stirred cocktails will be less diluted and a bit warmer. The ideal time to stir a drink may be when it’s made entirely of spirits.
So, which is it? Do you like to shake things up or slowly stir...?