How to Use a Cocktail Shaker

July 19, 2022 by

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Make cocktails in style with this simple and affordable piece of cocktail-making kit – a cocktail shaker. The simplicity of using a cocktail shaker should not be understated. It not only looks cool (because it does look really cool!). It also makes your cocktails taste better because the ingredients are properly combined. WINNING.

What is a cocktail shaker?

Close overhead shot of cocktail shaker with citrus and mint

A cocktail shaker is a pretty familiar-looking piece of bar kit. It is also easily available to buy and comes in many styles. Adding this basic tool to your home bar will take your drinks to the next level. Shakers are typically made of stainless steel and have a lid that closes tightly. A sealed container like this is great for shaking together ingredients while chilling them at the same time. The result is a nicely frosty, well-mixed drink, whether you’re using SKYY Vodka, Aperol, Campari, Grand Marnier, or Appleton Estate Rum.

Read next: Why on Earth is it Called a Cocktail, Though?

Different types of cocktail shakers

There are two mainstream shakers out there: the Boston shaker and the Cobbler shaker. Bartenders favor the Boston shaker, which is effectively two vessels that fit in one another. This gives it a large mixing capacity. It’s perfect for using behind a busy bar when making speedy drinks. The Cobbler shaker, on the other hand, is much easier to use. This is why most people prefer to use this one at home since you don’t really need to mix up large batches of drinks in one go.

Cobbler Shaker

A stylish Cobbler shaker set on a rustic wooden surface, ready for cocktail making.

A Cobbler cocktail shaker is made up of three parts: the jug or tin, the built-in strainer, and the top or cap. It’s typically made of stainless steel, but you’ll spot boujee designer versions in copper and matt steel. There are even some nifty glass cocktail shakers and vintage shakers out there!

The jug: The large base of a shaker is the jug that holds all the liquid and ice. Shakers can be found in 12-28 ounce sizes.

The strainer: This keeps the ice, fruity pulp, herbs, and other ingredients out of your drink when pouring into your cocktail glass.

The cap: Most shaker caps measure 1 fluid ounce, which is perfect to measure out all your cocktail ingredients.

Boston Shaker

Bartender shaking with a Boston shaker

A Boston cocktail shaker is usually a tin jug and a tempered glass combination that’s inexpensive and solid. The glass allows you to keep an eye on what you’re shaking up. This makes it the ideal bartender cocktail shaker. The tin holds 28 ounces and the glass usually 16 ounces. This allows professionals to whip up up to three cocktails in one go! The downside is you’ll need a Hawthorn strainer or little sieve to strain out the ice, pips, and other bits from your cocktails.

Learn more: What are the Six Basic Cocktails?

When should you use a cocktail shaker?

Bartender pouring from a shaker

A cocktail shaker should be used right before serving your cocktail. This helps you and your guests to enjoy the maximum benefits from chilling the cocktail over the ice. Your drink will be perfectly blended and oh-so-icy, capturing all the flavors of the mix.

Learn from the pros: Nine Things Every Newbie Should Know About Cocktail Making

Why are cocktails shaken?

Bartender Pouring Cocktail

If you have a cocktail shaker, then fabulous, you’ll always end up with a superior quality cocktail. This tool is primarily used to mix all of your ingredients thoroughly to create one gorgeous cocktail. One short 30-second shake will blend all your ingredients beautifully. It will also chill it to the optimum temperature and allow the necessary amount of dilution from the ice before you strain it into your glass.

GOOD NEWS! If you haven’t yet jumped into the cocktail-making game with both feet and don’t have a shaker, you don’t need to panic! Just improvise and use a mason jar, a protein shaker, or a blender bottle. In fact, you could even use your eco coffee cup.

How to use a cocktail shaker properly?

High-quality Cobbler shaker being used in a bar by a bartender.

Wondering how to use a shaker for drinks? It’s really easy! This simple piece of kit is easy to get used to and you will taste the benefits instantly. A shaker aerates your drink and dilutes by with a small amount. Water melting off the ice gives a drink a smoother taste. Ingredients like pineapple or orange juice rely on a good shake to give drinks that essential foamy texture, as well as cream or egg whites.

Adding your ingredients. Start by tipping all your ingredients into the jug of your shaker, as per recipe instructions. Then add a good measure of ice. The rule of thumb is to fill up the jug to three-quarters full.

The shake. Close the cap with the strainer firmly in place, if you’re using a Cobbler. With one hand gripping the base of the jug, secure the cap with the other, and shake vigorously for about 15-30 seconds. Bear in mind that a cocktail that’s been properly shaken gets the addition of about 1/2 ounce of water. This is an important dilution of what could otherwise be an overly strong cocktail.

The straining. Remove the cap and strain the liquid into your glass. If you are using a Boston shaker, place the Hawthorne strainer firmly into the jug pressing down with your thumb to secure it. Then strain your cocktail mix through it to remove ice, pips and other bits from your drink, and serve.

TOP TIP: Use the best ice you can lay your hands on! Thin watery ice is a no-no and makes for watery drinks!


A three piece cocktail shaker is super easy piece of kit to get the hang of using. Tip all your ingredients in the jug or base of your shaker, as per recipe instructions. Then add with a good measure of ice and close the cap firmly, with the strainer in place. Gripping the base in one hand, secure the cap with the other and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds. Then remove the cap and strain the liquid into your glass free of ice and other ingredients for a magical cocktail.

Bartenders commonly use Boston Shakers, which is effectively just two vessels that fit in one another, as they have a larger capacity and make quick drink behind a busy bar. Home cocktail makers prefer a Cobbler shaker as they are easier to use for 1 or 2 servings and are much prettier to display in your home.

Well without starting a raging debate, how long to shake your cocktail for is a debatable topic. If you’re in Texas and it’s piping hot, so your ingredients aren’t that chilled, we would recommend about 15-30 seconds of shaking to thoroughly chill. If you’re shaking up cocktails on a NYC rooftop on an icy winter evening, you may only need 10 seconds for the stainless steel jug or tin to become frosty and cold to the touch. If you’re mixing thicker elements like egg white or cream, you’ll need a longer and more vigorous shake. You are doing three things when mixing: introducing tiny air bubbles to create texture and mouthfeel, diluting your spirits with just the perfect amount of melted ice to avoid a watery drink and, finally, shaking with ice chills your drink to the ultimate temperature.

If you are making a cocktail that requires muddling, for example crushing your strawberries with lime and simple syrup, this is done first before it goes into the shaker or topped up with other ingredients. In the shaker, there is no set order, so all ingredients can go in at the same time. If you are pouring a spritz or champagne cocktail, the fizzy element is added straight to the glass last to ensure the person sipping gets all the bubbles.

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