Throwing is a spectacular mixing technique that has been spreading around bars all over the world for a few years now.
Throwing is a mixing technique that has considerably ancient origins: Asian populations used it (and still use it) to cool down hot tea. If you happen to be traveling in the east, you’ll notice it’s rather common to see this type of technique, particularly in traditional markets. In bars it was probably used to mix drinks before the advent of ice and shakers. Nowadays bartenders around the world have rediscovered throwing, yet it’s used for other reasons, which we will discuss in this article.
First of all I’d like to explain how to throw a cocktail. It’s not that simple to explain, but I’ll do my best.
Let’s take two mixing tins, which we’ll call A and B, some ice, a strainer (julep or hawthorne are the best) and the drink we want to mix. Pour the ingredients in the mixing tin A, then add the ice and block everything with the strainer. It’s important that the strainer doesn’t have any hooks because it must be able to fit inside the tin. Next, while keeping the two tins close to each other at right shoulder height, we start pouring the drink from tin A to tin B. For those of you who are left-handed it is convenient to hold the tin with the ice in the right hand. As we pour the drink, tin B should be lowered, thus creating a ‘waterfall’ effect. When the contents of the drink are completely inside tin B, tin B must be poured back into tin A to start the process all over. The number of times this process is carried out depends entirely on the bartender and the drink that is being made, but more than 5 times are almost never necessary.
Why is this technique trendy once again?
I think this technique is back in fashion and has become ‘viral’ because it is extremely spectacular. The technical reasons aren’t particularly relevant, but we’ll get to them in a moment. Personally, I see nothing wrong with using a technique exclusively for aesthetic reasons, particularly if it’s done with awareness and it increases the popularity or status of the venue. I use it too because, let’s face it, it’s ‘cool’. What I don’t find right is to attribute pseudo-scientific reasons to justify its use at all costs.
Let’s try to understand the technical reasons.
Let’s start with the assumption that when mixing, as when cooking, there is no right or wrong. Shaking a Martini Cocktail is not wrong regardless as is throwing a Negroni: it depends on the result you want to achieve. Ask for yourself why you are doing something makes the difference between a good cocktail and a bad cocktail. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, everything isn’t always permissible: the ‘personalization of the result’ should never be used to justify ignorance or error.
The main technical reason for using this technique is to alter the consistency or texture. However, it can not be compared to shaking: the throwing technique will never allow you to properly whip egg whites, aquafaba or cream. You will, however, make a Bloody Mary less flat and softer because the tomato juice has the ability to form small air bubbles.
Obviously there is also the dilution-related aspect.
I’m somewhat doubtful however, when I hear that ‘it mixes the ingredients better‘ and ‘it releases the drink’s scent’.
The first reason is quite simple: two alcoholic products, syrup and alcoholic products, juice and alcoholic products, are perfectly mixable even if they are of a different density. If they weren’t, the blended distillates or liqueurs would separate, which, of course, doesn’t happen. Ask yourself this question: do you need to shake coffee liquor before making a Black Russian? The answer is no, despite this being the union of infused alcohol and sugar syrup. Likewise, you don’t need to shake an Old Fashioned if you make it with liquid sugar. The density isn’t why you choose to shake or throw.
As for the ‘releasing the drink’s scents’ aspect, this is a matter that needs verifying. I believe no research lab will ever be interested in analyzing whether the throwing technique creates greater evaporation of aromatic compounds, so I think the only solution is to taste for yourselves and then draw your conclusions. To do this, however, it is necessary to eliminate any external conditioning: you have to do what the sommeliers call blind tastings. Compare the same drink made with various techniques, but you shouldn’t show the color of the drink, and you don’t need to tell what technique has been used. You should repeat the experiment several times, also by changing drinks, rinsing the mouth with water between tastings and possibly don’t tell those who are tasting what they are tasting or what to look out for: all these aspects would condition the end results.
To conclude, this technique is certainly spectacular and this can be an advantage in the right context. From a texture point of view it gives appreciable results in some drinks, especially when making a Bloody Mary. I think this is its greatest advantage, if we don’t want to or can’t shake a certain drink. As for its contribution with regard to releasing aromas, I recommend carrying out the tests using the suggested options and evaluating case by case.
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