The way a cocktail is mixed defines its flavour: a stirred martini will taste different than a shaken martini.
Shaking a drink mixes the flavours of the ingredients thoroughly, however it dilutes the mix by slightly melting the ice in the shaker. Stirring is different – this method is less violent however does not mix the ingredients as thoroughly. Blending and building are other methods although are not as popular as shaking or stirring.
Shaking a cocktail is the most common method of mixing. To shake a cocktail, the bartender must have a boston glass and a boston tin (or a boston tin with a steel filter cap, however this is less common), enclosing the liquid of the drink and a generous portion of ice. The bartender will normally add the contents of the cocktail into the glass first, followed by a generous portion of quality clean ice. The boston tin will then be placed on top of the glass, tapped lightly (to seal the shaker) and shaken vigorously for 10-15 seconds. This is ample time for the ingredients to mix, any longer than 15 seconds and the ice will melt (and dilute the flavours of the cocktail).
Building a cocktail is probably the oldest style of cocktail making. Building involves making the cocktail in the glass it is served in – no shaking equipment or blender are necessary. Building usually takes place over ice: ice is inserted into the serving glass first, and the contents of the cocktail are poured over the top. Building cocktails can create an attractive layered effect, however all the flavours of the cocktail do not mix effectively until the bartender or drinker stir the drink. Building is the second least popular style of mixing drinks – it is old fashioned and not commonly practiced.
Stirring is the second most popular form of mixing, and is the second oldest style of cocktail preparation. Stirring involves stirring the cocktail ingredients (with ice) in a glass boston. Stirring is not as violent as shaking, and it allows the drink to be served without too much dilution (shaking melts the ice in the boston, however stirring does not melt the ice as much).
Blending is a dying trend – very few bars use blenders nowadays. Blended cocktails are still commonly made in the home, however as drinking culture changes, the blender is no longer a key tool in modern cocktail creation.
The Essential Rule
The essential rule in cocktail making is this: taste the cocktail before you serve it! A cocktail is designed to be balanced: for example, a Mojito contains lime juice and sugar syrup which counteract each other’s flavour. When making a mojito, the aim is to create a delicate balance between the acidity of the lime juice and the sweetness of the sugar – following this rule to obtain the right balance will create a winning mix.