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Tuesday, February 10, 2009


When you begin to outfit your bar, one of your first purchases should be a Cocktail Shaker. Shakers have two purposes: to mix the ingredients well and (when used with ice) to chill them rapidly. You should start out with one, but if you are truly interested in cocktails, you will end up with many. Having more than one can be very convenient. If you’re having a cocktail party and you have several shakers, you can avoid having to rinse the shaker between drinks by using (for example) one for Martinis, one for Cosmopolitans, and one (that you will have to rinse) for everything else. Don’t worry about having to buy several, though. Once your family and friends find out about your interest in cocktails, you should receive much of the barware you need as birthday and/or holiday gifts. If you don’t, drop some hints and sign up for wish-lists on sites like to get them moving in the right direction. You can get shakers (and strainers) online from Amazon (see the barware product carousel). You can sometimes find barware sets at budget stores like T.J. Maxx or Tuesday Morning.

There are two main types of shakers: the Boston and the Cobbler. The Cobbler is a three piece shaker, usually made of stainless steel, which has a built-in strainer. The bottom is usually a large, tapered cup where the ingredients are placed for mixing. Next there is a tight-fitting lid resembling a truncated, curvaceous Dairy Queen® that has a built-in strainer. The third piece is cap that fits on the lid. Put ice in the cup, pour in the ingredients, put on the lid and cap, and then shake enthusiastically. The temperature of the shaker should drop rapidly as the cocktail is chilled. Remove the cap, strain the cocktail into the glass, and enjoy! I love making cocktails in the summer when the shaker frosts up from the humidity…

The Boston Shaker is two pieces: a mixing glass (that you can also use to prepare stirred cocktails) and a large, tapered cup, much like the bottom of a Cobbler, that is large enough for the inverted mixing glass to fit into and form a seal. The mixing glass will often have engraved measurements, which I tend not to use, but that can make it easy to mix several drinks at a time. Put ice in the cup, pour the ingredients into the mixing glass, flip the ingredients into the cup as you invert the glass into the cup, and then shake enthusiastically. Never shake one-handed if there are any carbonated ingredients, the gas pressure can cause the seal to pop. Remember that everything will end up in the cup, so don’t get overconfident and use more liquid and ice than will fit. The temperature of the shaker will drop rapidly as the cocktail is chilled. This will cause the cup to shrink and form a very tight seal with the glass. If you can’t separate them when you’re done shaking, carefully tap the glass on the side of the bar to break the seal (but not the glass!) The next step is to pour the cocktail. Usually, you can separate the ice using a strainer, but you can also use the glass to strain the cocktail by holding it just inside the lip of the cup as you pour. If you’ve never done this, avoid embarrassment by practicing with some ice-water before your guests arrive. Both ways work, so it’s just a matter of personal preference. Having received two strainers as gifts, I usually use one.

I advise beginning shakers to use two hands. As your confidence grows, you may develop a one-handed shake if you have a strong enough grip and a large enough hand to do it safely. Be careful! It would be embarrassing to have part of your shaker go flying, especially if it hits something. Once my wife bought me a cool looking Cobbler that had a glass cup with a metal lip (so it could seal with the lid). It soon became one of my favorites for colorful cocktails because my guests could see their cocktails as they were being shaken. I’m lazy and tend to use cubed ice, plus I like to shake hard to break some ice crystals into the cocktail. One evening, just as I was getting a really good shake on, the glass shaker broke in my hand. I stood there not quite realizing what had happened, thinking that somehow the lid had come off, until I realized that the bottom had broken. It turned out that the glass on the sides of the bottom was quite thin, but that I couldn’t actually see how thin it was because of the metal lip around its top. Farewell, beloved shaker.

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1 comment:

  1. I've got six cocktail shakers, I think. I've got three cobblers, and three boston shakers. I love the boston shakers, I use them the most. Two were from my sponsors (G'Vine and Partida Tequila) the other is an WMF shaker which I've started using on our Common Man Cocktails shows.

    The cobblers are great for fast drinks, stuff contents in and shake; however, they're not as sexy when building the drink. If you're making a friend a cocktail it's neat to show off what it looks like as you're building it.

    Also, I like the boston shaker because the glass bottom doesn't get super cold like many steel cobblers (although the top does). I have an insulated cobbler which is nice, you don't get cold hands trying to shake it.

    The other issue I've had with some cobblers is the body expanding when you shake making it impossible to break into the three pieces w/o running it through warm water.

    If I had to make a choice on which to keep and which to donate away, I'd keep the Boston Shaker (any one of them)