Cocktail Science – Shaking, Stirring and Dilution

Make Clear Ice

Cocktail Experiments

At the 2010 Tales of the Cocktail, a team of beverage and bartending professionals teamed up to host a seminar on The Science of Stirring – a follow-up on the previous year’s presentation, The Science of Shaking.

If you shake or stir cocktails – I strongly recommend taking the time to follow the links below and read the in-depth articles to fully understand the technical details of mixing drinks.

Here’s a quick summary / teaser (but still make sure you read the original article):

The Short Story

Shaking a cocktail is an aggressive action. If you reasonably agitate the cocktail during your shaking action for 12-15 seconds it will completely chill, dilute and aerate the drink. After this point it stops changing and reaches equilibrium (it won’t get colder or dilute further). Your shaking style or the ice you use, won’t adversely affect the temperature or dilution of your drink.

Stirring is completely different. Stirring can be thought of, as inefficient shaking. To reach a similar temperature and dilution to that of a shaken cocktail, it would take over 2 minutes of constant stirring. Unlike shaking, the size of the ice, speed of stirring and duration of stirring all make a difference to the resulting drink – so stirring does require skill and practice.

Clear Ice Negroni

Stirred drinks don’t reach equilibrium so they are warmer and less diluted than a shaken cocktail. The are not aerated so the texture does not change – it simply chills and dilutes the ingredients. If a properly stirred cocktail was served side by side with that of a diluted, non-stirred drink from the fridge (served at -0.5 degrees Celsius), it would be indistinguishable.


Law: There is no chilling without dilution. There is no dilution without chilling.

  • Fact 1: Ice at 0°C can chill an alcoholic drink well below 0°C
  • Fact 2: Bar ice is almost always at 0°C unless it comes straight from the freezer
  • Fact 3: Even if your ice is below 0°C, it won’t chill a drink that much better than ice at 0°C

When chilling, stirring is just inefficient shaking.

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