A word on Cocktail Shakers

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Published on: February 5, 2013

Reposted as we are currently running a Cocktail Competition – see here for details!


Before I start posting up cocktails recipes I thought I should give a basic introduction to cocktails and what you’ll need to make some, starting with shakers.

Cocktail Making Kit:

So first of all, you’ll need a shaker.  There are three types:

The Classic “Cobbler” Shaker – This is the one you will see most often, it’s usually the cheapest of all three and it is the easiest to use.  This is how I started off making cocktails, I got a freebie cobbler but I quickly found it wasn’t going to do everything I wanted.  This is the type of shaker you see in the movies, the one where they toss the shaker in the air, or in the classic 1930’s era movies (because this was the first type of shaker).  It’s a 3-piece set, body, strainer and cap.  Sometimes it also has an outer cap to form a bullet shape.  The inner cap that fits over the strainer can also be used as a measure in most cases.  The advantages of this shaker is the inbuilt strainer.  This shaker is easier for all the little tricks, like spinning or flipping through the air.  The whole shaker is more compact.  But its compact size is also a disadvantage, it doesn’t hold as much and it means the ice will melt quicker, it also gives very little room if you are stirring a drink instead of shaking.  I’ve also found that the strainers can be a bit of a pain to get off after use, they also get very cold.  The other thing with the strainer is that it tends to get blocked, particularly if you are using crushed ice, so it’s very slow pouring.  Prices range from very cheap (free) to mid-range (£10-20)


The Boston Shaker – This is the one I currently use and the one you’ll find in use in a lot of cocktail bars.  It’s a 2-piece set, solid glass or sometimes a plastic tumbler and a matching but slightly larger metal tumbler.  When stirring, the glass tumbler is used to build the drink with the ice.  The glass insulates the ice, so it doesn’t melt as quickly.  The wide open glass also allows for easy stirring.  If you are shaking, then the metal tumbler is used to build the drink, fill it about half way with ice then place the glass over the top, a sharp tap on top hermetically seals the two together (aided by the cold ice).  A 10 second shake is about all you need, or until the metal tumbler becomes slightly frosted.  To release the seal, tap the metal tumbler at the top, just above where the glass tumbler meets it using your wrist or heel of your hand.  Or alternatively, squeeze the top of the shaker between your thumb and index finger, this will break the seal.

Breaking the seal of a Boston shaker is usually the part most people struggle with but it’s still easier than getting the strainer off of most cobbler shakers.  It takes a little practice but once you’ve got it, you’ll wonder why it used to give you problems.  Before you pour your drink, you will need a strainer.  This is one of the disadvantages of a Boston shaker but it’s relatively minor.  You can buy a separate Hawthorne or Julep strainer (I recommend the Hawthorne) or you can just buy a cocktail making set which usually costs the same as a Boston shaker on its own.  You can double strain or “fine strain” your cocktail with a smaller strainer to ensure no small bits of broken ice get in your drink if you want.  Prices range from £10 upwards.

The French Shaker – A cross between the Boston and Cobbler shakers.  The French (or sometimes Parisian) shaker is a 2-piece set.  It is all metal and generally operates like the Boston shaker except it fits together rather than seals together; It also requires a strainer.  Generally these are more expensive than either the Boston or Cobbler shakers and they are harder to find as well but they do look very stylish.

You will then probably want to pick up a muddler, which is used to mash limes or mint leaves for things like mojitos.  Then you will want a jigger (25/50ml for the UK, 1oz/0.5oz for US) for measuring out the different drinks.  You may also want to invest in a couple of speed pourers – this will speed up your cocktail making considerably but it takes a bit of practice to get exact measures and you will need a few of them (at least 4, ideally more) otherwise you will spend more time swapping the speed pourer between bottles that you could have just measured out the old-fashioned way!  I mean a speed pourer, not the measure pourers as they never seem to work properly.  More optional purchases are things like a rubber bar mat or holding drinks and containing any spillage, a bar towel for wiping up, ice tongs and bucket and a bar blade for opening bottles.  I went out and bought a full set as I didn’t have much other than an old freebie cobbler shaker.  I purchased this set as I felt it was good value for money and the vinyl covering not only looked cool but gave good grip and stopped me freezing my hands on the metal tumbler.  I’ll do a proper review of the set one day.  Might even start doing videos of How-To’s if there is demand for it.

I’m going to leave it there – I don’t want to overload people with too much information in one go but I’ll also be covering things like… the different types of alcohol and how a cocktail is put together, glassware and the different classes of cocktail and other things like garnish and decoration of cocktails.  If you’ve any questions, as always, please leave a comment!

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