Learn the tricks of good cocktail shaking from the famed New York bar team.
This excerpt is brought to you by the team behind the brand-new book Death & Co. In it, you’ll learn the secrets to cocktails shaken and stirred the way of the famed New York bar. Want to see Death & Co’s owners, David Kaplan and Alexander Day, in action as they criss-cross the United States bringing Death & Co. to life with help from The Famous Grouse scotch? Buy tickets here.
Shaking a cocktail is like walking or sex: Everyone has a rhythm and motion that works best for them.
A bartender’s shake is his or her unique signature, a combination of nature and nurture, and often the purest expression of personality behind the bar, developed and tweaked through thousands of hours spent working behind the rail.
However, there are a few different styles of “specialty” shakes beyond the standard setup (which is thoroughly described and illustrated in our book!) that we use at Death & Co, depending on the drink being made.
When making cocktails that contain eggs—whether whites, yolks, or both—we start by dry shaking the drink, meaning without ice. To dry shake, build the drink, close the shaker, and shake until the ingredients are emulsified, which takes about as long as shaking a drink with ice. After this step, you’ll usually add ice and shake the drink again before straining.
When a cocktail is served over ice or topped with an effervescent ingredient (club soda, ginger beer, and so on), you don’t need to shake it as vigorously or for as long, as it will be diluted in the glass by the ice or additional ingredients. The goal is to shake the ingredients just long enough to mix them well and chill them slightly, the latter being helpful for preventing the drink from diluting too quickly when you pour it over ice.
We use this technique for cocktails served over a lot of crushed ice, such as swizzles. Shake the drink using only one cube or a few nuggets of ice (we use pellets made by a Scotsman machine), just long enough to melt the ice completely and incorporate the ingredients. The mixture won’t be very cold or diluted, but chilling and dilution will be taken care of in the glass.
Put the short shake to use with the recipe for the Little Engine.
(Photo courtesy William Hereford)