Greg in Rome wrote:
“My wife and I make, serve and enjoy classic cocktails (we never chill the ingredients other than vermouth) and we shake for 6 to 7 seconds. So, seeing your mixing time of 15 seconds; well, we can’t believe it. After various experiments to discover your approach, we find that long on shaking dilutes too much. Any insight onto the 15 second thing?”
I find, in general, that people don’t shake their cocktails long or hard enough to get 1) the correct texture and 2) a seriously cold drink. Thus, my 15 seconds benchmark. Basically, I shake until the shaker is painfully cold to hold.
There is some science behind this recommendation, which is detailed here in laboratory data, conducted by renowned barmen Eben Klemm, Dave Arnold, and Alex Day. In particular, I base my recommendations on data from the graph: “The effects of ice type on dilution, ABV, and temperature versus time in seconds.” As they note in the findings, “What’s really amazing is that after about 10-12 seconds you get less than 2 degrees extra cooling and between 20 and 40 seconds of constant shaking you only lose 1-1.5% ABV. We thought those results were pretty amazing. Between 20 and 40 seconds, we had only melted 20 grams more of ice.”
Now, I like a really cold drink, so I opt for the few seconds beyond 10-12 that yield my extra 2 degree C drop in temperature. What’s nice to note is that even longer shaking (20-40 seconds!) yields only a very small reduction in alcohol by volume.
Of course, there are a few dependencies to consider:
- Size of shaker: a larger, 28 oz. size is preferable to prevent dilution and move the ingredients around effectively.
- Shaker should be filled 3/4 full with ice.
- If there’s an egg in the drink, I shake even longer than 15 seconds. With an egg white, you’re looking for a fine, velvety foam. For an egg yolk, you’ll want to make sure the yolk fully emulsifies so it’s not streaky in the glass. The drink should be smooth and silky.
Remember that most pros only use shakers for cocktails only that have opaque ingredients like juices, milk, eggs, and creamy liqueurs. You’ll note in Storied Sips that I cheat a bit by shaking my Negronis. I love a shaken Negroni; there’s no way around it. So some of the advice is personal taste. Choose what you like best. Even at 6-7 seconds shaking, you can get a pretty cold drink, and a nice texture for most cocktails. Really, I’ve found that what you like best is always the best recipe!
Finally, here’s a pro tip that I recently picked up that may assist in further reducing any dilution issues: Build the cocktail in the shaker or mixing glass BEFORE adding any ice. Then, add the ice at the last-minute, and shake the heck out of it.