Stirring versus Shaking

Stirring and shaking of the same ingredients will yield different results.  A shaken drink will be much more aerated than a stirred drink.  Some have said that the decision whether to stir or shake should be made based on the presence of certain ingredients, such as citrus juice.  This approach seems to be based on the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to amounts for citrus juice exhibited by the modern ‘call-‘em-all-cocktails’ crowd.  It ignores the different desired results for the different genres of drinks, which should be informative as to when and and why citrus juice should be used only as an accent.  The only type of ingredient that demands shaking, regardless of the genre of drink being made, is the thick element.

Virtually all slings (including true cocktails, of course) that are not simply built or churned should be stirred.  This allows the alcoholic base of the sling to be the standout star of the drink, as is desirable and essential to that type of drink.  Stirring will harmonize the other ingredients with the strong element, without subverting its nature.  The only exception to this rule for the sling genre is when the drink is to be thickened, such as in the case of the Alamagoozlum Cocktail.  When a sling is shaken, the result is that too much of the character of the alcoholic base is lost to ‘bruising’ (the violence and aeration done to it while shaking).  To demonstrate the real effect of bruising, make two original Martini Cocktails (1 fl-oz. tom gin + 1 fl-oz. sweet vermouth + 2 dsh. orange additive bitters), but shake one of them instead.  Taste for the resulting loss of appeal found in the shaken one, and you will know what bruising really means.  Alternatively, this same test may be done with the original Bronx Cocktail from 1908 (2/3 fl-oz. Plymouth gin + 2/3 fl-oz. sweet vermouth + 2/3 fl-oz. dry vermouth + 2 dsh. orange additive bitters + 1 barspoon orange juice), one properly stirred and the other shaken.  Then you will discover directly through your palate why it is not always correct to shake a drink just because there is citrus juice in it.

Virtually all possets that are served cold should be shaken.  That is because, by their nature, possets are led by the thick element.  The thick element usually needs shaking to aerate and emulsify it, and to incorporate the other ingredients into its thickness.

Virtually all punches that are not batched or swizzled should be shaken.  In the case of punches, the ingredients should be balanced in the finished drink.  Since the alcoholic base is not the standout star in any punch, shaking and aerating is desirable to create a harmonious balance of the ingredients.

Virtually all succulents that are served ‘up’ (the blossoms, mainly) are to be shaken.  With such significant amounts of succulent juice, there is simply no way to make the alcoholic base in a succulent the standout star of the drink.

Syrups (plain, grenadine, orgeat)


Sugar syrup is used to quickly incorporate sugar into mixed drinks.  Sugar syrup is also known as simple syrup.  If gum Arabic is added to thicken the syrup, it is called gum syrup, or gomme syrup.  I believe that one should consider the amount of sugar desired in a drink, and then calculate how much sugar syrup will contain that amount of sugar.  For this, the use of one-to-one (1:1) sugar syrup is advised.

To make 1:1 sugar syrup, sugar is combined with water.  The water may be cold or room temperature, but not hot.  High heat breaks the sugar (sucrose) into simpler sugars (fructose and glucose) that have different levels of sweetness and aftertaste.

To make 1:1 sugar syrup, combine equal parts (by volume) of sugar and water in a bowl.  Whisk or stir until the sugar appears to be fully dissolved.  Quickly pour this into an appropriately-sized bottle using a funnel.  Cap the bottle and shake the syrup until you are quite sure that all the sugar is dissolved.  Use a label or bit of masking tape to mark the date on the bottle.  Refrigerate the bottle of sugar syrup when it is not being used.  Discard it after two weeks.

If one makes 1:1 sugar syrup from a cup of sugar and a cup of water, the yield will be almost exactly 1 ½ cups of syrup.  That means that the cup of sugar is spread out into the volume of 1 ½ cups of syrup.  That means that if you know the amount of sugar that you want in a drink, but are using 1:1 sugar syrup, simply multiple the sugar amount by 1.5.  The following table gives some common sugar amounts and their 1:1 sugar syrup equivalents (for those that don’t like to do math very much).  (click on the image to enlarge it)


For grenadine syrup, “Pomegranate (Grenadine) Infused Simple Syrup” by the Sonoma Syrup Co. is recommended.  It is also recommended to custom make grenadine syrup as follows:

32 fl-oz. (4 cups) pure pomegranate juice

2 cups granulated sugar

2 fl-oz. brandy

Pour the pomegranate juice in a saucepan and place over heat.  Reduce by half until its volume is 16 fl-oz. (2 cups).  Remove from heat.  Add the sugar and whisk or stir thoroughly until fully dissolved.  Add the brandy to aid in preservation.  Stir.  Let cool and pour into clean, dry bottles.  Label and cap or cork.  Store under refrigeration.


For orgeat syrup, it is recommended to make it as follows (at least until one of the boutique syrup companies currently selling so-called ‘orgeat’ changes their methods to include the bitter almond):

4 cups slivered almonds (common almonds, blanched, peeled & slivered)

5 cups pure water

1-2 fluid-scruples (1.25 ml. – 2.5 ml.) bitter almond essence (Dr. Oetker’s “Bitter-Mandel” from Germany – available in single fluid-scruple vials, four to a package)

1 barspoon (2.5 ml.| ½ tsp.) orange blossom water

4 cups granulated sugar

4 fl-oz. brandy

Place the almonds in a large bowl.  Pour the water into the bowl and be sure that it covers the almonds.  Cover and let stand several hours.  Use a muddler or pestle to crush the almonds.  Let stand several hours more.  Strain as much of the almond milk as possible from the almonds (one effective method is to use a ‘French press’ style manual coffee press to press the almond milk in several batches).  Measure out four cups of the almond milk (which should be most of the preparation to this point).  To the four cups of almond milk, add 1 or 2 fluid-scruples (according to preference)  of bitter almond essence and the orange blossom water.  Stir thoroughly.  Add the sugar and whisk or stir thoroughly until fully dissolved.  Add the brandy to aid in preservation.  Stir.  Pour into clean, dry bottles.  Label and cap or cork.  Store under refrigeration and shake thoroughly before use.

Note – it is not possible to make traditional orgeat syrup without the flavor of bitter almond being present.  This was originally done by using almonds of both the common and bitter types together from which to raise the almond milk.  Raw bitter almonds have a greater cyanide content than do common almonds.  They are now illegal (in their raw form) in the U.S.A.  That requires the use of essence of bitter almond in the making of orgeat syrup (and marzipan, etc.) in the U.S.A.  Fear not, the cyanide is cooked out during the processing of bitter almond essence.

Peach Petite Bitters


2 dozen (24) peach kernels (freshly-cut from fresh peaches – use the flesh for other purposes, such as in peach pie)

3 cups (720 ml.) grain alcohol (190° or 95% a.b.v. is best, but in some places 151° or 75.5% a.b.v. will have to do)

3 cups pure water

Spread the fresh peach kernels out on a baking sheet.  Roast them at 350° for ten minutes (this neutralizes the amygdalin found in the seed, which is itself found inside the kernel).  Lower the temperature to 250° and continue roasting the kernels for as long as it takes to dry them completely.  When roasted dry, let the kernels cool.  Place the kernels in a very large canning jar.  Pour in the grain alcohol.  Let this preparation macerate for a fortnight (14 days), shaking vigorously once each day for maximum agitation.  At the end of the fortnight’s maceration and agitation, finely strain off the macerated spirit and reserve it in a sealed jar or bottle.  Reserve the macerated kernels in a bowl.  Place the water in a large saucepan over heat.  As soon as the water reaches full boil, remove from heat and add the reserved, macerated kernels.  Cover and this preparation let it infuse until it is fully cool.  Finely strain off the infused water and reserve it.  Discard the kernels.  Combine the macerated spirit with the infused water in a bowl.  Stir thoroughly.  The preparation is now worthy of being called bitters.  Pour this into a pitcher.  Let the bitters stand until any sediment collects at the bottom.  Using a funnel, carefully pour the bitters into small bottles without allowing sediment into the them.  Small bottles with dasher tops are advisable, such as washed, empty bitters bottles.  Label the bitters.  These bitters should have an alcoholic content of roughly 95° or 47.5% a.b.v.  They will keep at room temperature as long as any (once-opened) bottle of spirits.

Note – since maceration in alcohol is best at extracting some compounds while infusion in water is best and extracting others, it is important to make bitters by combining a spirituous maceration with an aqueous infusion (of the same aromatic materials).  For the maceration in spirits to be most effective, the aromatic substance must be as dry as possible, since water impedes efficacious maceration.  For the same reason, spirits of the highest possible alcohol content are best, since lower proof spirits obviously contain more water.  It is never advised to macerate for bitters using any vodka, whiskey or other common spirit at salable proof.  Such a product may be fine as a flavored vodka or a flavored whiskey, but may not perform the aromatic function of bitters in a true cocktail – that is, the removal from the palate the experience of the harshness of alcohol.