Mastering the Arts of Bartending: The Shake and Strain Cocktail Technique
Cocktail making is an art form that requires skill, precision, and a deep understanding of the ingredients at play. Among the various techniques that mixologists employ, shaking and straining stand out as fundamental skills that can elevate your drink-making prowess. In this blog post, we'll delve into the nuances of the shake and strain cocktail technique, exploring its history, the science behind it, and tips to perfect your shaking and straining game.
The act of shaking cocktails dates back to the early 19th century, with the first recorded mention appearing in Jerry Thomas's influential bartending guide, "How to Mix Drinks or The Bon Vivant's Companion," published in 1862. Back then, the use of ice in cocktails was a novelty, and shaking served not only to chill the drink but also to incorporate and aerate the ingredients. As for straining, this step became essential as mixologists aimed to create smoother, sediment-free cocktails. Strainers evolved from simple perforated spoons to more sophisticated tools like the Hawthorne and Julep strainers we use today.
Shaking a cocktail involves more than just a vigorous wrist motion; it's a science that significantly impacts the drink's taste and texture. When you shake a cocktail, you're not only chilling the ingredients but also diluting and emulsifying them. The rapid movement of ice within the shaker disperses and mingles the flavors, creating a harmonious blend.
Certain cocktails benefit from a "hard shake," characterized by an aggressive and prolonged shaking motion. This technique is particularly effective for drinks containing egg whites, as it generates a frothy texture that adds a luxurious mouthfeel.
To master the shake and strain technique, you'll need the right tools. A classic Boston shaker,
comprising a mixing glass and a metal tin, is a popular choice for shaking, in a commercial setting most people would use a Boston shaker where the glass has been replaced with a tin so that you have 2 tins of different sizes. Alternatively, a Cobbler shaker, which has a built-in strainer and a cap, is a convenient all-in-one option, note well that metal versions of this shaker can be hard to open while cold.
For straining, Hawthorne strainers are the go-to tool. Their coiled spring design efficiently filters out ice and other solids, ensuring a smooth pour. Julep strainers, with their flat perforated surface, are ideal for stirred cocktails but can also be used for certain shaken concoctions.
Ice Matters: The type and size of ice cubes used can affect the outcome. Large, dense cubes are preferred for a slower dilution rate, while smaller, cracked ice creates a quicker chill.
Consistency is Key: Develop a consistent shaking technique. Whether it's a short, hard shake or a gentle, prolonged one, aim for uniformity in each shake.
Mind the Strain: Pay attention to your straining technique to ensure a controlled and even pour. Hold the strainer close to the shaker or mixing glass to filter out ice chips effectively.
Experiment: Don't be afraid to experiment with different shaking and straining techniques for various cocktails. Some drinks benefit from a longer shake, while others may require a gentle stir.
While most recipes will simply say shake and strain, occasionally you will find a recipe calling for a "dry shake" or a "wet shake". In the realm of cocktail crafting, the terms "dry shaking" and "wet shaking" refer to two distinct shaking methods, each with its unique purpose. Dry shaking involves shaking the cocktail ingredients without ice initially, typically employed when a recipe calls for the inclusion of egg whites. This technique allows for a more thorough emulsification of the egg whites, resulting in a luscious, frothy texture. Once dry shaking is complete, ice is added, and the mixture is shaken again to chill the concoction. On the other hand, wet shaking is the conventional method that involves shaking the ingredients with ice from the start, efficiently cooling the drink while blending the flavors.
While a single strain through a Hawthorne or Julep strainer is standard practice, employing the double strain technique adds an extra layer of finesse to your cocktail presentation. After the initial strain with the regular strainer, a fine mesh strainer is used to catch finer particles and ice shards that may have escaped the first strain. This meticulous process ensures an exceptionally smooth and visually appealing pour. Double straining is particularly beneficial for cocktails that incorporate muddled fruits, herbs, or those with a delicate texture, guaranteeing a polished and refined drinking experience. By removing any unwanted bits, the double strain not only enhances the aesthetics
but also elevates the overall quality of the cocktail,
showcasing your dedication to craftsmanship.
Mastering the shake and strain cocktail technique is an essential skill for any aspiring mixologist. Understanding the history, science, and tools involved will not only enhance the flavor and texture of your drinks but also elevate your status as a skilled bartender. So, the next time you find yourself behind the bar, channel your inner mixologist and shake things up – your patrons' taste buds will thank you. Cheers to the art of mixology!
Add a paragraph about dry shaking and wet shaking and a paragraph about the benefits of the double strain