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How to Shake a Cocktail: 5 Tips for Shaking Perfect Cocktails

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Mar 19, 2020 • 5 min read

If you’ve ever marveled at professional bartenders using a two-piece cocktail shaker to pour well-shaken drinks, it may be time for you to learn the art of cocktail shaking yourself. You don’t have to be a professional mixologist to use a high grade cocktail shaker to whip up a perfectly balanced cocktail.

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Lynnette Marrero & Ryan Chetiyawardana Teach MixologyLynnette Marrero & Ryan Chetiyawardana Teach Mixology

World-class bartenders Lynnette and Ryan (aka Mr Lyan) teach you how to make perfect cocktails at home for any mood or occasion.

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3 Types of Cocktail Shakers

There are many different types of cocktail shakers, and finding the best cocktail shaker for you has a lot to do with your preferred shaking style and your bartending budget. Most cocktail recipes can be made in any decent stainless steel cocktail shaker. The three primary types of cocktail shakers are:

  1. Cobbler shaker: This three-piece shaker includes a metal tumbler, a strainer, and a smaller metal cap that completely covers the strainer. The cap protects the bartender from spills and can also be used as a measuring spoon.
  2. Boston shaker: Boston shakers are two-piece shakers. A metal tumbler covers a slightly smaller mixing glass which is usually made of glass. One of the downsides of using a Boston shaker is that it doesn’t contain a built-in julep strainer.
  3. French shaker: Another two-piece shaker, the French shaker is a large metal tumbler with a smaller metal lid. Like the Boston shaker, it also doesn’t have a built-in strainer.

How to Choose the Right Cocktail Shaker

There are a variety of different types of cocktail shakers available for home bartenders. Once you find the best cocktail shaker for you and learn proper shaking technique, you’ll be well on your way to impressing your guests and shaking up delicious cocktails with ease. Here’s how to choose a cocktail shaker:

  • Look for a metal tumbler. Experts warn against using the ubiquitous Boston shaker, which utilizes a large metal tin over a pint glass. Aside from being prone to breakage, glass simply won’t lock as tightly as metal and won’t chill your drink as well. Using metal tins solves all the problems that glass creates: It won’t break, it isn’t as heavy, and it will chill your cocktail with more consistency.
  • Consider using a strainer. Cobbler shakers, favored by professional Japanese bartenders, are composed of three pieces that fit together to form a compact shaking vessel. One upside to a cobbler shaker is that it contains a built-in strainer.
  • Find a comfortable shaker size. Cobbler shakers typically contain less interior space than a standard two-piece shaker set, which gives you a bit more control over how much you want to dilute your cocktail. Cobblers are great for drinks that benefit from a hard shake, but wrangling them in a way that feels comfortable can take some practice.
  • Work with what you’ve got. Sleek two-piece “Parisian” shakers offer an alternative to two-piece sets and cobblers, but they can be difficult to unlock and don’t feature a built-in strainer. Consider these only when nothing else is available.
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How to Shake a Cocktail: 5 Tips for Shaking Perfect Cocktails

Shaking a cocktail is an art form. Once a bartender has poured the liquor, ice cubes, juices and other flavoring agents into a shaker and formed a tight seal, they have to shake their concoction with just enough force that they mix the ingredients without producing an overdiluted final product. The perfect shake will give a drink enough aeration and dilution to balance the ingredients. Once you have your own shaker tin and have practiced shaking mixed drinks, you’ll start to develop your own signature shaking style. Here are a few tips as you start making shaken cocktails:

  1. Add ice last, then seal. After building your drink into the large tin, add four or five ice cubes and slide the smaller tin on top. Give the top of the shaker a firm tap with your palm. A good rule of thumb is to wait until you hear a little hiss or fizz sound that indicates both parts of the shaker have sealed. If the shaker doesn’t seal right away, set the base down on your workstation and tap the top of the shaker again with more pressure.
  2. Pay attention to how the ice moves. One of the most important things to keep in mind when shaking a cocktail is that you should treat your ice cubes like a single mass that you’ll volley back and forth from one end of the shaker to the other. That’s why cold, quality ice matters; wet, brittle ice will slosh around and counteract what the shaker allows you to do. When shaking with fresh ice, you’ll be able to tell when your cocktail is ready by paying close attention to how the ice changes. You’ll hear it break apart and feel its mass decrease.
  3. Unlock your shaker. When you’re ready to pour your cocktail, set your shaker upright on your workstation with the larger tin on the bottom. Hold it firmly with both hands and place the palm of your dominant hand along the seam where both tins connect. You should be able to feel where the tins are closest together. This is where the “lock happens when you close your shaker. Shaking increases the pressure inside the shaker, so the lock is likely tighter at this point. Slide your palm to the perpendicular end of the lock, and firmly push the top tin in the opposite direction. You should hear a distinct “click” when your shaker unlocks. Some liquid might still be clinging to the sides of the smaller tin, so be sure to empty that out into the larger tin.
  4. Pour the drink. To pour, place a Hawthorne strainer on top of the shaker opening. You’ll feel the spiral portion of the strainer rest somewhat loosely along the inside of the shaker. With your glass ready, grasp the shaker with your dominant hand and place your index finger on top of the Hawthorne strainer to keep it in place. Adding the slightest forward pressure on the strainer with your index finger will help keep larger solids from leaving the shaker. When the contents of the shaker appear just about emptied, swirl the shaker around and pour once more to ensure any remaining liquid is strained out.
  5. Adjust your method when using a cobbler shaker. To shake with a cobbler shaker, follow the same method for shaking with a two-piece shaker, considering the lid and cap as your second tin. Cobblers can take some time to get comfortable with. Since cobbler shakers have a round shape and contain less mass than two-piece shakers, you’ll likely develop your own personal style when it comes to shaking. To unlock a cobbler shaker, remove only the cap piece, and pour the contents out while keeping a firm grip on the lid and body. As with two-piece shakers, swirling the cobbler around and pouring a second time ensures that you’ll empty out as much liquid as possible.

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