Chief among cocktail-making doctrines is the dictum that drinks with juice are shaken, those without are stirred. But for Al Sotack, there might be a loophole for pineapple.
“The whole idea of [when to] stir or shake a cocktail is ambiguous,” says Sotack, partner at Brooklyn’s Jupiter Disco. “Often, if any technique was listed in old recipes it was not in line with modern standards.”
While the shake-vs.-stir rules have been codified through generations of bartenders, there are times when it makes sense to push back, Sotack says. For example, if only a small amount of juice is called for, the drink might actually benefit from stirring. Such is the case with the classic Algonquin, which sees a half-ounce of pineapple stirred with rye whiskey and dry vermouth, for a Manhattan-like cocktail with a hint of the tropics.
Sotack believes in this approach so firmly that he devoted an entire section of Jupiter Disco’s latest zine, Preservation, to “Stirred Drinks But With Pineapple.”
Although this technique can work with citrus too (more on that later), Sotack recommends starting out with pineapple instead of lemon or lime because its inherent sweetness makes it a more balanced modifier.
He looks to the Bronx as a drink that lends itself to the “Stirred But With Pineapple” style. In Hugo Ensslin’s 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks, the author includes a “dry” Bronx that calls for muddling slices of pineapple and orange, then shaking the gin drink. Sotack adapted the classic for Philadelphia’s Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co. circa 2013. His South Bronx calls for stirring a teaspoon of pineapple juice and a half-teaspoon of orange juice into the otherwise Martini-like drink, which features Old Tom gin plus blanc and sweet vermouths.
While his inspiration was simple—“I wanted to push back on the idea that the Bronx is a shitty cocktail,” he recalls—he was pleasantly surprised by how well the technique worked. “A little tiny bit of juice doesn’t change the elegance, or what they used to call mouthfeel,” he says. “There’s no frothy head on it. It’s a decision to treat one of those drinks in the style of a Manhattan instead of the style of a sour.”
The technique can work with other juices too, as illustrated by the Salt & Ash, a cocktail created by Sotack’s Jupiter Disco colleague and partner Maks Pazuniak. The drink calls for a half-ounce of lemon juice stirred with three-quarters of an ounce each of tequila, mezcal and vermouth, plus smaller amounts of sweeteners and bitters.
“It has a smaller ratio of citrus to the overall volume of liquid,” Sotack notes; specifically, it’s about one-eighth of the drink. “It’s moving away from the spectrum of what a sour is,” he says, adding that a typical sour contains at least three-quarters of an ounce of citrus, balanced by a similar amount of sugar syrup. He describes the drink as being closer to a Manhattan or Martini with a splash of juice.
Although Sotack and Pazuniak have found ways to experiment with stirred juice drinks, it’s a technique that requires a light hand. Sotack notes that it can work in Martini- or Manhattan-style drinks, as long as the spirituous components outweigh the juice. “You move a quarter of an ounce in the wrong direction, and it’s suddenly a different thing,” he says.
Though it doesn’t work with every drink— “It’s on a case-by-case basis,” Sotack warns—taking an open-minded approach to stirred drinks made with pineapple can pay off. “I like when things take me by surprise,” he says. “I think it’s interesting. I don’t have it every day, so it’s taken a place in my heart.”