I'm not going to name any names, but during a recent sojourn into the wilds I came across this very well composed Old Fashioned full of liquors that any locavore would be proud to imbibe. (Though we won't even talk about that cherry.)
Unfortunately, it had a head so frothy I was tempted to check it for rabies, completely changing the character of what should have been a smooth ride into flavor town. Instead it was more like a margarita — airy, more watered down, a little spritzy.
I'm no master mixologist, but generally ... don't do that. Generally, when you've got a drink composed almost completely of alcohol — like that Negroni you (or I) have been waiting all day to come home to — you want to give it a clean stir, trying not to agitate the ice all over the place. You want to chill it, not kill it. (Write that down.)
It's mixers you want to shake, drinks with citrus juices, or egg whites and other components made better for the tumble. Here's Wine Enthusiast for how to do both best.
One sign of a well-shaken cocktail is a frothy edge in drinks made with cream or eggs, or a fine blanket of ice shards on top of a clear cocktail. ... He adds cocktail ingredients to a pint glass and then fills it to the top with ice. ... Next, make sure the tin is inverted on top of the glass, then give it “a nice little hit on the top” to create a seal before shaking the drink vigorously. For how long, you ask? Bartenders love to quote Harry Craddock’s 1930 bar guide, The Savoy Cocktail Book: “Shake the shaker as hard as you can. Don't just rock it, you're trying to wake it up, not send it to sleep!”
Compared to shaking, stirring is more gentle—a technique intended to delicately combine ingredients and minimize dilution. Use a long-handled bar spoon and stir the drink in circles. “Around and around, not up and down,” Asher says. And keep in mind that it takes longer to chill a drink by stirring than by shaking.“A good 6—7-second shake is equivalent to a 30-second stir,” he says.