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When it comes to making cocktails, the final product is ultimately the most important factor. But, in much the same way with coffee, the surrounding experience of actually making the drink plays a big part in its enjoyment. Of course, you probably got really good at making your cocktails at home during the pandemic, and maybe you’re looking to refresh the gear you’re using, whether that’s your bar cart, your collection of cocktail books or, crucially, your cocktail shaker.
The Two Types of Cocktail Shakers
When it comes to buying a cocktail shaker, your main options are the three-piece cobbler shaker and the two-piece tin shaker, also called a Boston shaker. There are also Parisian shakers, but those are quite a bit less common.
The three components of a cobbler shaker are the built-in strainer, the cup that holds ice and liquid and the lid.
Cobbler shakers take minimal skill to master, which is great when you’re two margs down and feel like another. Cobbler shakers are also stylish, and they make for a great gift for a cocktail lover. For the casual home bartender, a cobbler shaker arguably makes the most sense. And if anyone gives you slack for this seemingly amateurish method, just remind them that the famously exacting bartenders in Japan use cobbler shakers.
Boston shakers are simpler, at least in design. The two metal cups (or one glass and one metal) are pushed together to create an airtight seal. Boston shakers are the preference of professional bartenders.
Because Boston shakers are preferred by the pros, then they must be the better option, right? Not necessarily. Boston shakers require a separate strainer, and it takes an amount of skill and practice in order to learn how to create an airtight seal and to separate the two cups afterward. The benefits of a Boston shaker — ease of cleaning, stackability, large volume and efficiency — are all great. But speed and efficiency aren’t really crucial for the home bartender, who’s probably making one or two cocktails at a time.
What to Look for When Buying a Cocktail Shaker
Although you could choose a cocktail shaker based on price and appearance alone, there are a few things to look for if you want to choose one of the best cocktail shakers on the market.
- Capacity – First you’ll want to check how big the shaker is. If you intend to mix up cocktails for one or two people, a 12-ounce shaker will suffice, but for larger parties, you’ll want one that holds at least 28 ounces.
- Material – Generally, cocktail shakers are made of plastic, metal or glass. While the latter looks super classy, glass cocktail shakers tend to fall and break (think how slippery your hands will get when lots of liquids are involved). On the other hand, plastic isn’t super durable and will wear out in the dishwasher over time. Therefore, we recommend investing in a metal shaker, but make sure it’s made from quality stainless steel and read the care instructions carefully to avoid any issues with the finish.
- Weight – Most professional bartenders use a weighted Boston shaker. In such setups, one of the tins is weighted while the other is slightly underweight. Not only does this allow for an ideal seal, but it’s also easier on the arms for a long night of shaking up cocktails. While you might be intending to shake all night, a slightly weighted shaker will help you feel like a professional in your at-home bar.
When To Use a Cocktail Shaker
A shaker is crucial to many of the most popular cocktails, including classics like the margarita and daiquiri. But as with any tool, it’s just as important to know when to use it as it is to know when not to use it. As versatile as the cocktail shaker is, there are times when you’ll want to stir, instead of shake. In those cases, it’s best to stick with a mixing glass and strainer.
The common shorthand for remembering when to use a shaker and when to stir comes down to juice — generally, if a cocktail has juice, you shake. This also goes for other non-alcoholic ingredients, like cream liqueurs and eggs. Shaking ensures ice-cold temperatures and fully combined ingredients. When it comes to cocktails like the Negroni, the Manhattan and the Martini, stirring is preferred — shaking risks over dilution and disrupting the delicate ingredients.
We’ve rounded up some of our favorite cocktail shakers, including cobbler and Boston shakers, so you can up your cocktail game. These are the ones to get.
1. OXO Steel Single Wall Cocktail Shaker
When it comes to the best gear for the home kitchen, OXO is one of the first places to look. True to form, the brand’s cocktail shaker is innovative yet practical and stylish but simple. The double silicone seal is designed to prevent leaking that can come from cobbler shakers while maintaining the ease of pulling all the components apart. The best part is the curved cap, which doubles as a jigger — it has markings on the inside to make 1/2, 3/4, 1 and 1 1/2 oz measurements, encompassing the most common measurements you could need.
2. True Maraca Cocktail Recipe Shaker
Sometimes you don’t need fancy. Sometimes all you need is budget-friendly functionality, and if that’s the case, the True Maraca Cocktail Recipe Shaker may be the right choice for you. This sturdy, plastic shaker features measurement markers up and down the sea-through exterior. In addition, the shaker comes with a strainer lid and a jigger cap. The best part? This cocktail shaker costs less than $10.
3. Cocktail Kingdom Koriko Large Weighted Shaking Tin
Want to use the cocktail shaker the professionals use? Grab the Cocktail Kingdom Koriko Large Weighted Shaking Tin. You’ll actually need to purchase two (one large and one small) to make a set, but then you’ll have a nicely weighted Boston shaker for mixing scrumptious cocktails just like your favorite bartender. The tins are made from stainless steel and are designed for easier separation after shaking.
4. Barillio Rose Copper Cocktail Shaker Set
If you need more than a cocktail shaker to complete your at-home bar, consider the Barillio Rose Copper Cocktail Shaker Set. This well-reviewed set is super stylish and will stand out on any mid-century modern bar cart thanks to the copper-colored exterior and includes a shaker, jigger, muddler, cocktail spoon, two liquid pourers and a velvet bag for keeping all the pieces safely together. As an added bonus, Barillio has also included a handy cocktail recipe booklet along with a matching ebook.
5. Pina Barware Stainless Steel Boston Shaker Tin Set
BEST BOSTON SHAKER
Pina makes great barware for home bartenders and professionals alike, and this simple Boston shaker tin set is a great option to use yourself or give as a gift for the dedicated home bartender. The mirror polish stainless steel gives it a sophisticated look, and these shakers are great for making multiple cocktails at a time — one tin is 28 ounces and the other 18 ounces. The tins are weighted, too, making them comfortable and secure to use, and they’re heavier than comparable Koriko tins.
6. Cresimo Store Large Cocktail Shaker Set
Every once in a while a product is so well-reviewed on Amazon that buying it is a no-brainer. That’s certainly the case with the Large Cocktail Shaker Set from the Cresimo Store. With more than 12,000 reviews and a 4.5-star rating, this set includes a stainless steel shaker, an ice strainer, a jigger, a bar spoon and a craft cocktail recipe guide. Plus, this set strikes a nice balance between quality and cost.
7. Simple Modern 20-ounce Cocktail Shaker
NO MORE COLD HANDS
Why do you need a double-wall insulated cocktail shaker when the liquid only needs to stay cold for about 30 seconds before being poured out? Simple, it’s about comfort. Traditional stainless steel shakers get very cold and can be pretty uncomfortable to hold, but Simple Modern’s stylish cocktail shaker will stay at a neutral temperature on the outside but will be frigid on the inside. Like most of Simple Modern’s products, this shaker is available in a wide range of colors. The lid also features jigger measurements of 1/2 oz and 1 oz. The shaker holds 20 ounces, so you can quickly whip up a couple of cocktails for you and a friend.
8. BrüMate Shaker
For something that will make your guests stop and say, “Wow, that’s a cool cocktail shaker,” you need look no further than the BrüMate Shaker. Made by a small business, this shaker/tumbler is triple-insulated, meaning it won’t sweat on your hands, and any ice you put inside will stay frozen through several rounds of cocktail making. But, our favorite part about this shaker is definitely the 10 different fun and funky colors it comes in.
9. Nordstrom Recipe Cocktail Shaker
A great gift for someone who just turned 21, this cocktail shaker is as helpful as it is functional. The classy gold exterior spins around the tumbler, revealing eight different classic cocktail recipes. The cobbler-style shaker is made from stainless steel and is available in either brushed silver or brushed gold. Additionally, Nordstrom is currently offering free gift wrapping on pick-up orders, making this an effortless gift option.
10. Godinger Dublin Martini Shaker
If you want the most luxurious-looking cocktail shaker possible, this option from Godinger is made from lead-free crystal and has the distinctive textured look of crystal glassware. It’s a cobbler-style shaker with a glass body and stainless steel strainer and lid. It’d be the ideal gift for anyone with traditional taste.
11. Elevated Craft Hybrid Cocktail Shaker
BEST LEAK-PROOF DESIGN
The most common complaint with cobbler shakers is that they often leak. It can definitely be difficult to ensure a proper leak-proof seal using such shakers. And, the lid and tumbler often freeze shut. However, Elevated Craft’s cobbler shaker updates this old-school design to be more user-friendly — the strainer and cap twist onto the tumbler to create a locked seal. The lid also includes measurements from 1/4 to six ounces, so it can be flipped over and used as a jigger.
12. Fortessa Crafthouse Cocktail Shaker Set
Charles Joly is a world championship bartender and the recipient of the James Beard Award for beverage design. So, if you want a cocktail shaker set designed by the best of the best, grab this Fortessa Crafthouse Cocktail Shaker Set created by the big shot himself. The set, which includes a Boston shaker, a strainer, a muddler and a jigger, offers both a timeless style and modern convenience.