How to Use a Cocktail Shaker

July 19, 2022 by Sonja Edridge

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; not only does it make you look as cool as Tom Holland behind the bar but shaking things up also makes most cocktails taste a million times more delicious.

What is a cocktail shaker?

Close overhead shot of cocktail skaker with citrus and mint

A cocktail shaker is a pretty familiar looking piece of bar kit, easily available to buy in any style. It’s an essential basic to add to your home bar to transform your cocktails into next level drinks. Typically made of stainless steel, cocktail shakers are designed to help prepare cocktails and mixed drinks. It acts as a sealed container that allows you to quickly and thoroughly mix your ingredients together over ice, while chilling the drink thoroughly at the same time.

Different types of cocktail shakers

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

Cobbler Shaker

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. Even a glass cocktail shaker or a vintage cocktail shaker would be neat to have!

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 too, making it the ideal bartender cocktail shaker. The tin holds 28 ounces and the glass usually 16 ounces, allowing you to whip up three cocktails in one go! The downside is you’ll need a Hawthorn strainer or little sieve to strain out the ice, pips and bits from your cocktails.

When should you use a cocktail shaker?

Bartender pouring from a shaker

A cocktail shaker should be used right before serving your cocktail, to allow the maximum benefits from chilling your cocktail over the ice. Your drink should be perfectly blended and oh-so icy to capture all the flavors of the mix.

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, it’s primarily needed to mix all of your ingredients thoroughly to create one gorgeous cocktail. The 30-second shake will blend all your ingredients beautifully, chill it to the optimum temperature and allow the necessary amount of dilution from the ice before you strain it into your glass. If you haven’t yet jumped with both feet into the cocktail making game and don’t have a shaker, don’t panic! Just improvise and use a mason jar, a protein shaker or a blender bottle, you could even use your eco coffee cup!

How to use a cocktail shaker properly?

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 the drink as well as dilutes it with the small amount of water melting off the ice for 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 off by tipping all your ingredients into the jug of your shaker, as per recipe instructions. Then add with a good measure of ice. Rule of thumb, the aficionados say to fill up the jug to three-quarter full.

The shake: Close the cap with the strainer firmly in place, if you’re using a Cobbler. Gripping one hand on 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 free of ice and other ingredients for a magical cocktail. If you are using a Boston shaker, place the Hawthorne strainer firmly into the jug pressing down with your thumb to secure it and strain to remove ice and 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 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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