Some cocktails benefit from a vigorous shake. Others prefer a swift stir. And still others just want to chillax on some rocks. Here's the low-down on when to do what to which cocktail.


Why stir a cocktail? A couple reasons.

1. You want a cocktail that's clear as an alpine stream.

For see-through clarity, stir a martini or manhattan. A stirred martini has a very soft, silky texture. Shaking aerates the cocktail, which changes the texture, makes it a bit frothy. Some people like that, some don't.

2. You want the least amount of dilution possible.

Shaking will draw a bit more water off the ice than stirring. Put another way, stirring can give you a stiffer drink.

Shaggy's Manhattan
Shaggy's Manhattan | Photo by Butler

Why shake a cocktail? Again, two reasons.

1. To get a super-cold cocktail.

Shaking is good for drinks served up (without ice). A shaken martini has icy snap and a good crisp bite. Also, if you're serving a cocktail over ice and want to start with a very cold drink, shake it first, and then strain it over fresh ice. All you need are about 15 or 20 good shakes.

Lime Daiquiri
Daiquiri Cocktail | Photo by Meredith

Which is colder, a stirred cocktail or a shaken cocktail?

A shaken cocktail. The strange truth is, you can actually shake a cocktail to below 0 °C (between -5 to -7 °C).

Will shaking longer make it colder?

No. After about 20 vigorous shakes, the temperature plateaus. Any shaking after that is called exercise.

Why doesn't it get colder?

Because science. It's complicated. This article explains it.

How long do I need to stir a cocktail to make it ice cold?

What takes 10 seconds with a shaker, requires a couple minutes of constant stirring.

Pro-tip for colder stirred drinks: Start out with a chilled stirring pitcher or pint glass. Then your ice won't have to work to cool down the pitcher as well as the liquid.

Does the type of ice matter?

Not really. But use lots of ice so there's a lot of surface area exposed.

Some Cocktails to Shake

Give these fruity or creamy cocktails a vigorous shake.

Mai Tai
Mai Tai | Photo by Snacking in the Kitchen

Cocktails to Stir...or Shake

Dealer's choice here. Stir if you like clarity; shake if you thrill to a bracing chill.

Gin Martini
Crystal Clear Martini | Photo by Meredith
| Credit: Meredith

Cocktails That Don't Need Preliminary Shaking or Stirring

Mix these simple drinks in the same glass you'll be sipping from.

Old Fashioned Cocktails
Old Fashioned Cocktail | Photo by Meredith

Check out our collection of Cocktail Recipes.