How to make cocktails

Cocktail shakers & how to shake a cocktail

Words by Simon Difford

Shaking not only mixes a drink, it also chills, dilutes and aerates it. Along with stirring shaking is the most common technique employed to mix cocktails.

Shaking is very simple and if you are new to cocktail making, then please continue reading. However, if you are an experienced bartender then I suggest you skip to 'Advanced cocktail shaking tips, myths and lessons'.

Cocktail shaking basics

When following a cocktail recipe and you see the phrase "shake with ice and strain" or similar, you should place all the required ingredients in a cocktail shaker with cubed ice and shake briskly - in a similar manner to agitating the metal ball in a can of spray-paint. Shake for around 12 seconds then strain the liquid into the glass, leaving the ice behind in the shaker.

The temperature and dilution achieved by shaking is just as important to the resulting cocktail as using the right proportions of each ingredient. If you use too little ice it will melt too quickly in the shaker, producing an over-diluted drink - so always fill your shaker two-thirds full with ice.

Losing your grip whilst shaking is likely to make a mess and a flying shaker could injure a bystander, so always hold the shaker firmly with two hands and never shake fizzy ingredients (unless in a minute proportion to the rest of the drink).

We've videos and more detailed tips and information on how to shake but first we need to know if your shaker is a 'two-piece' or a 'three-piece' shaker?

Two-piece cocktail shakers

As the name suggests a two-piece shaker consists of two flat-bottomed cones, one larger than the other. The large cone, or 'can', is made of stainless steel or silver plated steel while the smaller cone can be glass, stainless steel or even plastic. If the smaller cone is glass the pair are collectively known as a 'Boston Shaker', and if metal then you have what's known as a 'French Shaker'. More information on two-piece shakers and how to use them.

Three-piece cocktail shakers

Three-piece shakers are also called 'Standard' or 'Cobbler' shakers, they comprise of three sections:
1. Flat-bottomed, conical base or 'can'
2. Built-in strainer mid-section
3. Top cap or lid which seals the shaker
More information on three-piece shakers and how to use them.

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