Nothing quite matches the pure theater that can be evidenced at one of your shindigs as when someone is mid-shake with a gleaming cocktail shaker in hand. There’s something bafflingly fascinating about watching the process of drinks being mixed in front of you that is akin to watching art take shape before your eyes.
Speaking as an ex-cocktail barman, I still find myself transfixed at times as I watch the separate elements come together to make the perfect cocktail. But what is it about this simple contraption that adds so much je ne sais quoi to proceedings? That’s probably something the psychologists could elaborate on but in this article we’ll be looking at the cocktail shaker in a little bit more depth.
We shall find out why we need a cocktail shaker in the first place, what kind of cocktail shakers there are, how to use a cocktail shaker properly and which kind of cocktail shaker would best suit your needs.
Why Use A Cocktail Shaker?
This is all to do with mixology. Simply put, the science and art of making a good cocktail. It can be argued that mixologists are creators, inventors of new drinks and recipes but for the benefit of this article we can view mixology as the blending of flavors to create great tasting, balanced drinks.
As is the case so often with drink, there are great analogies that you can take from the world of cuisine and this time is no different. I liken the cocktail shaker and subsequent benefits to a big pot of homemade sauce. All the best sauces are created by marrying together ingredients that will eventually amalgamate into one balanced, perfect flavor. This is only achieved by infusing these flavors with each other so they are complimentary to the overall taste and this is exactly the reason why we use a cocktail shaker. By mixing different spirits, juices, herbs and other ingredients together we are harmonizing the different elements into one flavorsome drink.
Types of Cocktail Shakers
Broadly speaking, there are three different kinds of cocktail shaker although there are some other niche shakers on the market also. When looking for cocktail shakers you will most often come across either a Boston Shaker, a cobbler shaker or a French cocktail shaker. Each has their own qualities which make them instantly recognizable and each has their good and bad points.
You will notice that the vast majority of cocktail shakers are made from some form of stainless steel which in itself also presents positive and negative attributes. For instance, they are extremely easy to clean and maintain but due to one of the key ingredients in making a good cocktail being ice, there will always be a contraction of the shaker when the temperature drops that could cause some sticking issues.
This is what I was taught to mix with and it’s the shaker I would encourage everyone to learn to use. For me, it’s definitely the best cocktail shaker. The Boston cocktail shaker consists of two parts, the tin and the glass. The glass is often used in the preparation stages of building the cocktail and is a perfect vessel for muddling and stirring.
Because there is a larger area for the shake to take place in, I find the Boston shaker allows for a better mix of flavors and although it is often described as a professionals’ shaker there is absolutely no need to feel daunted by it. Often, you hear people saying that they have been soaked by their Boston shaker and they would like to switch to one of the other options. There is no need for this though. As long as you pat the glass firmly enough into the tin at a straight enough angle to create a good, tight seal and use a good shaking technique there should be no problems
There is no built-in strainer with Boston shakers so there are a couple of options for you to get the cocktail from your tin. Firstly you can buy your own cocktail strainer which are very inexpensive and will make a great addition to your cocktail set. The second option, and this may take some practice, is to create your own strainer using the tin and the glass. By breaking the seal after shaking and creating a small enough gap, you can strain the cocktail in a visually pleasing way that will earn you a fair few kudos points.
Because Boston shakers are for the most part made from two different materials, one of which being glass, they benefit from not being afflicted by the sticking situation that can dog the other options. To break the seal after shaking, all that is needed is a swift, firm tap on the top of the shaker tin.
- Very versatile
- Produces a fast drink
- Visually pleasing
- There’s glass which could break
- Some skill required
The cobbler shaker is a great option for new mixologists and those who might just want an easy to use piece of equipment. A cobbler shaker is a 3 piece shaker which consists of a tin, a lid with a built in strainer and a cap that can also double up as a spirit measure. All 3 pieces will be made from the same material which will be some form of stainless steel.
What’s good about cobbler shakers is that they are very easy to use and ideal for simple two or three ingredient cocktails. Just pour the ingredients into the shaker with your ice, put the fitted lid and the cap on and shake away to your hearts content. When finished, remove the cap and instantly pour your cocktail. Simple.
However, with simplicity there does come a few drawbacks. The built in strainer, whilst being a good feature at face value can cause a slow pour of the cocktail. This is due to how narrow the neck is and the strainer basically consisting of a few holes in the lid. When this is coupled with freshly bashed up ice trying to get out it can lead to some blockages.
Also, as the cocktail mixer set is all stainless steel, the different components will all contract as the temperature drops due to the presence of ice. This can lead to the lid becoming stuck to the tin which can prove frustrating at times. I have seen plenty of cobblers being forcefully thrown into the sink by frustrated colleagues. To combat this, try warming the shaker with warm water. This should work most of the time.
- Good for beginners
- Built in strainer means no extra costs
- Sleek designs
- Can be a slower pour
- Is prone to sticking
French Cocktail Shaker
The French cocktail shaker or Parisian shaker as it is sometimes referred to is a bit of a mixture of the Boston and cobbler shakers. It has similar, yet I think a lot sexier lines to that of a cobbler shaker but it forgoes the built in strainer. It is a two piece shaker like the Boston with two tins, one slightly bigger than the other to create an overlapping seal.
You would think that because the Parisian offers the best of both worlds in a sense that it would be a popular shaker but this just isn’t true. It’s the least used shaker out of the three by far and I think it’s mainly due to the fact that it offers not one thing or the other. The Boston is a great shaker due to its size and practicality and the cobbler is so easy to use. The Parisian, although stunning to look at excels in none of these. Added to this it takes on both of the other shakers bad points, ie sticking and a bit of skill required to properly use it then it becomes a little obsolete. It does look nice though 🙂
- Beautiful designs
- Can stick when cold
- Requires some skill
How to Properly Shake Your Cocktail
So, you’ve got yourself a good cocktail shaker, the shindig is in full flow and your guests are eager to try your Cosmopolitan but disaster has struck and the cocktail shaker has gone flying out of your hand. The horror, the shame!
Thankfully, learning how to shake properly is very straightforward with only a couple of things to remember no matter which shaker you are using. First is hand position. Your dominant hand should be on the top of your shaker. I pin my thumb on the very top as an extra safety precaution. Your non-dominant hand will go underneath the shaker and form a tight grip. Now the shaking can commence.
There are no set rules as to how many shakes are required but I don’t think you should ever need to go past ten. Give yourself a good base with your feet in a forward facing position and shake over your dominant shoulder in a fluid motion. If this doesn’t feel comfortable for you then I have seen guys shake from a position around their chest or even above their heads. Whatever feels best for you will be the correct position, all you need to worry about is keeping a good grip on the shaker.
Cocktail Shaker Sets
There are plenty of options available to you if you want an all in one cocktail shaker set. For the most part you will get the same accompaniments, ie shaker, strainer, jigger, muddler and a bar spoon like this set by The Ellen Collective. I have given this as a present before and as far as I know there were no issues with rusting that you so often hear about with some of the cheaper sets. Just be sure to do your research.
I mentioned at the start of the article that there were basically three kinds of cocktail shakers and then some niche products as well. Well, this mason jar cocktail shaker set by Ehome definitely falls into the niche category. If you want something a bit different to a standard cocktail shaker set then look no further. It’s a 30 oz mason jar with a stainless steel lid with a built in strainer. It also comes with a stainless steel cap, two jiggers and a muddler.