Why is a Manhattan stirred?

Answered by Willian Lymon

The Manhattan cocktail is a classic drink that has been enjoyed for decades. It consists of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters, and is typically garnished with a cherry. One might think that the method of preparation, whether it be stirring or shaking, would have little impact on the final result. However, as Albert Schmid points out in his book, the choice of stirring over shaking can make a significant difference in the overall experience of the drink.

Firstly, let’s consider the visual aspect of the Manhattan. When a cocktail is shaken, it tends to become cloudy and foamy on the top. This can detract from the aesthetic appeal of the drink, as it loses its transparent and sleek appearance. On the other hand, when a Manhattan is stirred, it maintains its clarity and transparency, allowing the consumer to appreciate the rich amber color of the whiskey and vermouth blend. This visual pleasure adds to the overall enjoyment of the drink, as we often “eat with our eyes” and appreciate a well-presented beverage.

Moving beyond the visual aspect, stirring also has an impact on the taste and texture of the Manhattan. When a cocktail is shaken, it introduces more air into the mixture, resulting in a slightly different flavor profile. The bubbles created during shaking can alter the balance of flavors, potentially making the drink taste lighter or more diluted. By stirring the ingredients instead, the flavors are gently combined, creating a smoother and more harmonious blend. This allows the individual flavors of the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters to shine through, creating a more nuanced and enjoyable drinking experience.

Furthermore, stirring the Manhattan also affects the texture of the drink. Shaking tends to create a frothy and slightly thicker consistency, which may not be to everyone’s preference. By stirring, the cocktail retains a silkier and more velvety mouthfeel, allowing the flavors to coat the palate in a more elegant manner. This smooth texture enhances the overall gastronomic pleasure of sipping on a well-made Manhattan.

It is worth noting that while stirring is the traditional method for preparing a Manhattan, some may still prefer the shaken version. Personal taste and preference play a significant role in cocktail enjoyment, and experimentation is always encouraged. However, for those seeking a more classic and refined experience, stirring is the way to go.

The choice to stir a Manhattan rather than shake it is not simply a matter of tradition or preference. Stirring allows for a visually appealing, transparent drink that preserves the true flavors and textures of the ingredients. It enhances both the visual and gastronomic pleasure, providing a more refined and enjoyable drinking experience. So next time you find yourself craving a Manhattan, take a moment to stir it and savor the craftsmanship that goes into every sip.