When & How to Properly Shake a Cocktail

When & How to Properly Shake a Cocktail

5 minute

When it comes to making a great cocktail, there's one key ingredient that's often overlooked: the shake. That's right, to make a truly delicious drink, you need to know how to properly shake a cocktail.

Let's start with your equipment.

Chose the Best Cocktail Shaker for Your Experience Level

There are three types of cocktail shakers, each with their own quirks and best for people at different levels of cocktail shaking experience:

Cobbler Cocktail Shaker (Easiest to Use): The cobbler shaker is similar to the Boston shaker, except with the all-important addition of a built-in strainer. There are three pieces to a cobbler cocktail shaker - the base, top, and strainer cap. To use a Cobbler Cocktail Shaker, simply add all of your ingredients to the base, seal it with the top and strainer cap, and shake. Once properly chilled, all you have to do is take off the strainer cap and pour - a much cleaner process than the Boston Cocktail Shaker for home bartenders.

If you're looking for a great Cobbler Cocktail Shaker, we love this one from Elevated Craft that you can get on Amazon. We can say it's hands-down the best cocktail shaker we've used (and we've used a few!).

Boston Cocktail Shaker (Best for Experienced Bartenders): The Boston shaker is the most popular type of cocktail shaker used by bartenders today, but we don't really recommend it if you're just getting started. It's composed of two tins, one large and one small. The large tin is used as a mixing glass, while the smaller tin is used as a strainer by creating an opening between the two. However, there is not a built in strainer so it requires some practice to properly strain cocktails without spilling drinks all over your bar. To use a Boston shaker, add all of your ingredients to the large tin, then place the smaller tin on top and seal it tight. Once sealed, hold the two tins together and shake vigorously, separating slightly once you're done to let the drink pour into your glass.

If you've shaken a few cocktails in your day, give one of these basic Boston Cocktail Shakers a try for not too much money.

Parisian Cocktail Shaker (Looks Cool, Hard to Use): While it may look the best (they're so stylish in Paris), the Parisian shaker is the least popular and most difficult type of cocktail shaker to use. Just staging your kitchen or want to make your bar look good? The Parisian Cocktail Shaker is for you. But if you're like us you're actually going to mix drinks in your cocktail shaker, and that's where the Parisian shaker can be difficult. Parisian shakers only have two pieces, like a Boston shaker, which, again, means you’ll need some polished mixology skills or a strainer to avoid a mess. But like a Cobbler Cocktail Shaker, the cap fits right into the tin so you get a perfect seal. Think of Parisian Cocktail Shakers like a really sleek looking sports car with no engine. Looks really nice, but not practical.

If despite our warnings you're still set on a Parisian Cocktail Shaker, this one will look good even if it spills your next margarita.

When to Shake a Cocktail

Now that you know your equipment, let's talk about when you should be shaking your cocktails.

Basically, any cocktail that contains citrus juice or dairy should be shaken, while drinks composed of all spirits can be stirred. This is because shaking breaks up the pulp in citrus fruits and incorporates air into dairy, which results in a smoother drink. Stirring simply mixes the ingredients together without adding any air.

We labored over a complex, very artsy process flow to help you remember whether your cocktail requires a shake next time you're mixing a drink:

Diagram of When to Shake a Cocktail

The Proper Technique to Shake a Cocktail

Now that you know which cocktails to shake and when, it's time to learn the proper technique.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to properly shake a cocktail:

  1. Fill your cocktail shaker halfway with ice cubes. The more surface area that the ice has, the better it will be at chilling your drink quickly.
  2. Add all of your ingredients to the cocktail shaker.
  3. Seal the cocktail shaker and give it a good shake. Be sure to shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds so that the drink is properly mixed and chilled.

The all-important Step #3 is where the differences of opinion between bartenders come in, since there are a couple stances mixologists use when shaking a cocktail. The first is to place one hand on top of the cocktail shaker (over the tin or glass) and use your other hand to grab the bottom and shake up and down. The second involves holding the tin in the sample places, but turning it horizontally and shaking back and forth.

The answer to which technique is better? It honestly doesn't matter that much, so long as you're shaking the drink for 10-15 seconds. However, some bartenders prefer using the horizontal technique because it allows you to get more force behind each shake and, well, it kind of looks more impressive to your guests. If you opt for this method, be sure to grip the cocktail shaker tightly so that it doesn't slip out of your hands.

And that's it, the proper way to shake a cocktail! Shaking something good up today? Tag @ficksdrink on Instagram so we can share your cocktail creations with your soon-to-be fans!

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