Like many, I’ve recently been watching a bit of sport. Whether tennis, football, cycling, each participant tends to have a style of their own – much like bartenders. Whilst we have our own particular styles however, we are generally trying to achieve the same ends.
Take shaking for example. Putting flair bartending (Roadhouse-style bottle juggling) to one side, the aim of shaking a drink is fourfold, to:
• Chill the drink
• Dilute the drink
• Mix the ingredients
• Aerate the drink
We all go about this in slightly different ways, with more or less vigour and with more or less style. Many of us take the shake as seriously as the athlete would their sport, complete with grimace (I can recommend a glance at www.shakerfaces.com for a US take on this), although this has little to do with the final product and more to do with the effort involved.
Whilst the style varies, to my mind there are two basic shakes, as well as three styles of shaker. Firstly the shakers – I don’t mean silver one, bullet-shaped one and penguin-shaped one here… traditionally they are divided into Cobbler and Boston shakers. The former is a three-part piece of equipment, with tin, strainer and cap. The latter is a two-part combination which can be further subdivided into the glass/tin variety and the tin/tin variety. The Boston shaker in whichever format is the tool of choice for Western bartenders these days, whilst the Cobbler is favoured more by Japanese bartenders. In support for the Boston, it allows a greater degree of ‘travel’ – i.e. the contents have further to move from one end of the shaker to the other, chilling, diluting, mixing and aerating the drink more quickly. Against – there is more surface area, so potentially more to chill in the first place, plus you need a separate strainer that unless chilled, also warms the drink. On the other hand, the Cobbler has a built-in, chilled strainer, but there is less movement of the ice. That’s the simplistic categorisation anyway.
Then there are the shakes. Whilst many variations are described, I think they fall into two main categories – the very hard ‘shake the hell out of it’ variety, and the not so hard (though the not so hard is still much harder than the Hollywood pansy shake). Personally I use the “STHOOI” technique for anything with muddled fruit, dairy or egg, and the other for straight wet ingredients. Either way, the metal bit of your shaker needs to be covered with frost and your hands cold by the end of it; otherwise you haven’t done your job properly.
Although those are the two main variations in my book, many other styles have been described. Most famously, the ‘Hard Shake’ as championed by Japanese bartender Kazuo Uyeda, which involves a strict series of precise movements that are designed to move a single ice block around a Cobbler shaker so that it touches four points of the tin. Whilst this is a pretty impressive sight to behold, I have yet to be personally convinced of its benefits – but feel free to check out the full description here www.cocktail-academy.co.jp/hardshake/index.html. Let me know if you manage to master it and I’ll be round for drinks!
One final variation and a recipe for you: it’s a version of the STHOOI method, but involves a preliminary ‘dry shake’. This is exclusively for drinks containing egg white, and its aim is to whip up a froth before adding the ice (if you dilute the egg white before shaking, then you don’t get as good a head). One of my favourite egg-white drinks using this technique – the Sloe Gin Fizz:
Sloe Gin Fizz
50ml Sloe Gin
25ml fresh lemon juice
20ml 1:1 simple sugar syrup (depending on the sweetness of the sloe gin)
15ml egg white
Add all the ingredients to a Boston shaker, shake hard and fast.
Open shaker and add ice. Shake hard again, and then strain over ice in a Collins glass.
Top with a splash of soda water and garnish with a lemon wedge.