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’ve probably been making a lot of your cocktails at home this past year, 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 between the three-piece cobbler shaker and the two-piece tin shaker, also called a Boston shaker. There are also Parisian shakers, but these are less common.
The three components of a cobbler shaker are the built-in strainer, the cup that holds ice and liquid, and the lid. 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.
So, 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 to use 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.
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.
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. 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 oz and the other 18 oz. The tins are weighted, too, making them comfortable and secure to use, and they’re heavier than comparable Koriko tins.
3. Rabbit 3-Piece Stainless Steel Cocktail Shaker
The common complaint with cobbler shakers is that it can be difficult to ensure a proper leak-proof seal, and the lid and tin can often freeze shut. Rabbit’s cobbler shaker updates this old-school design to be more user-friendly — the strainer and cap twist onto the tin and lock into place, so you can ensure a secure seal every time. The cap is flat on top, so it can be flipped over and used as a jigger.
4. Simple Modern 20oz 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 oz, so you can quickly whip up a couple of cocktails for you and a friend.
5. Mako Bar Tool Set
BEST ALL-IN-ONE SET
Professional look, beginner price — this stylish set from Mako will dupe your bartender friends into thinking you spent a lot more on it than you did. This all-in-one kit includes one jigger, one wood muddler, one stirring spoon and a Hawthorne strainer, in addition to the glass-on-tin Boston shaker for a professional look. This affordable set gives you pretty much everything you need to get started in making cocktails — just add booze.
6. Cocktail Kingdom Leopold Shaking Tin Set
BEST PROFESSIONAL SET
Cocktail Kingdom is one of the most trusted sources for professional barware, and this modestly priced Leopold set features two weighted tins for making two cocktails at once. The tins use premium 18/8 stainless steel, and they are dishwasher safe. They’re designed to make a secure seal and separate easily.
7. 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.
8. Libbey 3-Piece Boston Cocktail Shaker Set
INCLUDES A STRAINER
Libbey glasses are inexpensive, stylish and durable, making them a favorite of restaurants and bars. Libbey also makes great glassware for the home bartender, like this clever Boston shaker set. It features one stainless steel tin and one mixing glass — the glass features a variety of classic cocktail recipes printed right on the glass. As an added bonus, a handy Hawthorne strainer is included.
9. Foster & Rye Enamel Cocktail Shaker with Jigger
BEST FOR CAMPING
This cobbler cocktail shaker set from Foster & Rye evokes a classic camping look, thanks to its speckled blue and white enamel design. The rugged design makes it a great option to take with you when you’re camping or traveling. Plus, a matching enamel jigger is included with the shaker.
10. True Brands Viski Rocket Cocktail Shaker
BEST NOVELTY SET
A cocktail shaker is a functional piece of kitchenware, but that doesn’t mean it can’t look like a piece of art. This shaker from True Brands has a curved shape and unique tripod stand that makes it look like a rocket. The shaker comes off the stand, so the wings of the rocket won’t get in the way while you’re shaking, making this a novelty option that doesn’t sacrifice functionality. The large shaker holds 24 oz, so you can make cocktails for multiple people at once.