Shake that thing!

When to shake or stir? How to use a shaker?

When you’re a bartender you know that your most important tool is your shaker, right up there side by side with your jigger.

Shaking a cocktail is the classic image of a bartender.

Whether you do it professionally or as an enthusiast, or simply incorporate that persona after a few drinks at a party, there are many styles and brands to choose from.

Having myself a few years experience on all those roles as a bartender, I want to share a bit of what works and what doesn’t, at least for me anyway.

My favorite and also the one I use the most is a simple stainless steel shaker, also known as Boston Shaker. It’s paper thin, incredibly light and can fit around most glassware. I’ve been using it for so many years that it’s all scratched on the outside (mostly from my flaring attempts) and most places I’ve bartended professionally used a similar type because it’s very affordable (a.k.a. cheap!!!).

I also have a “fancier” version, very thick, shiny and cool looking. The reason I don’t like it very much is that it’s too heavy, which is bad if you’re doing more than a couple of drinks and due to its thickness, it won’t create a seal with other glassware but the one mixing glass it came with.

A very popular wedding/housewarming gift is that fancy looking shaker that has a lid, some call it a “martini shaker”. They are handy because most have a built-in strainer. You can find these in lots of finishes and designs. The reason I stopped using those is that the lid often gets stuck and it was just annoying to open once it did.

Why is your shaker so important then?


  • The first use of a shaker is to cool and dilute a strong drink or spirit, a dry vodka martini for instance. All you’re doing is quickly shaking or swirling vodka and ice, lowering the temperature of a spirit reduces that burning sensation of the alcohol and makes it easier to notice the subtleties of that product.


  • To blend (“force together”) two liquids with different density, like an eggnog with rum. Using force while shaking will temporarily blend liquids so they appear one. In the case of a spiked eggnog, I’m sure you’ve seen it happen, if you let it sit for a few minutes the cream and rum will separate into two layers.


  • Or to impart/infuse flavor, as with the mint in a Mojito. In the case of a drink that uses fresh herbs, zests, and other solids as flavoring agents, the shaking action along with the hard ice cubes works as a blender type of action, cutting or processing those solids and extracting their flavor. Most drinks prepared like this also involve some straining.


So you see, if you fancy the art of mixing drinks, you’ll be shaking things as often as you’ll be drinking them.
Just make sure that, as with any tool, your shaker is making your work easier and not the other way around.

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