JiggerWocky: adventures in alcohol and academics

JiggerWocky: adventures in alcohol and academics

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Shake it!

There are three physical factors at work in a well-made cocktail: water content, ingredient distribution and temperature. While some spirits require only a stir to achieve a balance of these factors, others can only attain true cocktail Nirvana with a shake. And, as we learned, a mixologist's shake is like a thumbprint—no two shakes are the same.
According to Joaquin Simo of New York City’s Death & Company, “A shake should wake up a cocktail. Its function is to make it greater than the sum of its parts.” For Simo, shaking is necessary to combine different textures into one.
What types of cocktails need shaking? “Any drink that contains an element that can cloud up a drink,” says 2007 New York Rising Star Jim Meehan of PDT, citing citrus, egg whites and cream as the most commonly shaken ingredients.

The theory behind the shake holds that the back-and-forth motion drives an ice cube to chip at the corners, breaking off bits that dilute and chill the liquid. The remaining chunks of ice further chill the liquid as the cocktail becomes aerated and blended.
Mixologists agree that different cocktails call for different shakes. Recipes call for varying levels of dilution and temperature, depending on how they are to be consumed. A shaken cocktail served up should get a long and hard shake in order to achieve a nice, frothy consistency, as it won’t have ice to keep it cold. Conversely, for drinks served on ice, the shake should be modified accordingly. In the end, it's about what you’re trying to achieve with the cocktail.
All shaking technicalities aside, mixologists will always be front-of-the-house employees, at the service of his/her guests. Where cocktails are taken seriously, the shake itself is an integral part of the entertainment factor in the dining/drinking experience. “A shake should be pleasant to watch,” as Meehan puts it. And he’s right. Regardless of how hard the shake is, or who is shaking the drink, patrons will always turn their heads when they hear the familiar "ka-chunk, ka-chunk" sound sailing out from behind the bar.

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