Shaken or Stirred? Mixologist Micah Olson Explains the Difference

Nikki Buchanan
Micah Olson shakes it
Park your butt on a bar stool at any decent bar in town, and you'll see a whole lot of shaking going on. These days (the third wave of the American Cocktail Revolution), lots of cocktails are shaken, though few are stirred. Questions are: why and how?

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Micah Olson, bartender-owner of Bar Crudo, has some simple answers that should make the whole shaken versus stirred dichotomy as clear as crystal ice.

Crudo--Arcadia Club.jpg
The Arcadia Club, shaken because it contains egg white
But let's put style before substance. If you've paid an inkling of attention when a mixologist has made you a shaken cocktail, you've surely noticed each person has his or her own distinctive shake. Some bartenders shake vigorously, others shake desultorily. Some throw the canister over their shoulder, others do an up-and-down movement that brings percussionists and Conga lines to mind. And some of them (I won't name names here) appear to be showing off their biceps to snag girls. Not kidding. I've seen it.

According to Olson, shaking is a bartender's "song and dance" and "mating call." See what I'm saying? But here's the important thing: the shake should be hard and long (don't even go there), allowing the liquid to move all the way from one end of the canister to the other.

And by the way, two-fisted shaking isn't showing off; it's just saving time.

Now here are a few facts and rules to file away:

  • You should shake any drink which has citrus, dairy or egg in it.
  • The point of shaking is to incorporate ingredients (in the case of egg, to emulsify it) and to get the drink cold.
  • Shaking aerates the drink and makes it lighter.
  • Drinks should be shaken for at least six seconds, which adds the proper amount of dilution as the ice melts into the cocktail.
  • A drink that begins with four ounces of spirit will have an extra 1/4 ounce of liquid (although the alcohol content remains the same) after being shaken.
  • Drinks that have not been properly shaken will taste strong and give alcohol burn.
  • Properly shaken drinks "lengthen" the cocktail.

Location Info


3603 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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