Pre-prohibition cocktails and modern twists on classics

The Shaken Cocktail

    More approachable to the novice bartender, shaking is much more popular in most establishments than stirring. While many cocktails should be stirred, there are definitely times when shaking is the way to go.

    For more discussion on why shaking is more popular, check out Shaken or Stirred?

    The act of shaking results in much faster chilling than stirring. This is secondary to breaking up the ice and increased speed of mixing, which increases the surface area interacting with the liquid molecules. Shaking also results in adding water to the drink faster than stirring due to melting of the smaller ice pieces. While water is a key, often forgotten ingredient in every cocktail, too much of it dilutes the taste of the final product, resulting in an “over-shaken” cocktail tasting watered down.

    In addition to cooling and adding water to the drink faster, the smaller ice fragments intermix with the contents of the shaker making more difficult to thoroughly mix ingredients, such as juices and dairy products/eggs, emulsify better. A side effect is aeration of the drink due to small molecules of air also emulsifying within it as the beverage is shaken vigorously. Typically shaken drinks will taste a bit lighter and “airier” than a stirred drink due to this aeration.

    Dry Shaking is shaking the contents of the cocktail for a few seconds prior to adding in the ice. This helps begin the emulsification of egg products, which are more difficult to mix if cold before shaking.

    The key to making the most of a shaken drink is to be mindful of the pros and cons of shaking. Definitely shake any drink with juices and dairy including eggs (dry shake the egg containing drinks before shaking with ice). Be careful, however, not to shake the drink for too long, which will result in a watery beverage. Another caution is that shaken drinks often go down a bit smoother than a stirred drink (especially if over dilute) and can result in drinking the alcohol a bit faster than a stirred drink.

    Before we get into how to shake, let’s go over a few pieces of equipment that you will need.

    What you’ll need:

    • Shaker – Boston, Cobbler or Parisian
    • Hawthorne Strainer – if not using a Cobbler shaker


    There are a few types of shakers out there. The most common one to find is the Cobbler. This is a metal shaker with three components, a base, a strainer top, and a smaller cap for the strainer portion. This type will certainly get the job done for most; however, the holes in the strainer are often a little larger and can allow more small pieces of ice to get into your cocktail (remember when you shake, you break up the ice into significantly smaller pieces). Mint and other additives can also clog up the holes.

    A Parisian shaker (not pictured) is the middle ground between the cobbler and Boston shakers. While looking more like a cobbler, there is not a built-in strainer on the Parisian.

    Many bartenders use the Boston shaker, which consists of either two metal cups, or a pint glass and a metal cup. The two pieces then interlock before shaking. One advantage of the Boston shaker is that a pint glass can be used with the top piece, allowing the pint glasses to be used for making either a shaken or a stirred drink, thus decreasing the number of supplies you need. There is also more room in this type of shaker, since you are using two larger vessels to mix your cocktail.

    Using a Boston shaker takes a little more practice than the other shakers, as making a good seal as well as breaking the seal is not as easy as simply pulling the top piece off a cobbler or Parisian (although when frosty these pose difficulties as well).

    Hawthorne Strainer

    Some who are skilled at shaking will strain the Boston or Parisian by holding the two pieces closely together and allowing just the liquid to filter out at the junction of the two components. However in most cases a Hawthorne strainer is often a better way to go, allowing better control and less chance of dumping the drink all over yourself or your bar surface.

    Similar to barspoons and twisting, the tighter the coils on your Hawthorne strainer, the better it will filter.

    The Hawthorne strainer has a coiled spring which sits inside of the shaker. This addition will help grab pulp and other debris from your cocktail. In addition, you can push forward (toward the direction you are straining) on the Hawthorne strainer to push this spring up against the wall of the shaker. This allows you to filter your cocktail with even more control.

    Before shaking, does your drink contain juices, dairy/eggs? If so you are in the right place. If not, consider stirring your cocktail.

    How to Prepare a Shaken Cocktail:

    1. Chill your pint glass if using a Boston shaker.
      • No need to chill a metal shaker base as it will cool quickly.
    2. This is also a good time to add ice to the cocktail glass you plan to chill.
      • Adding water to the ice will increase the surface area in contact with the glass as well as to help prevent the ice from sticking.
      • Alternatively, you could place the glass in the fridge/freezer, just be sure to pull it out a little before serving to prevent the glass from looking too “frosty.”
    3. Begin measuring your ingredients and building the drink in the glass/base.
      • I usually start with bitters because they are usually the smallest in quantity but highest in flavor.
      • If you slip up and add too much, it will be less wasteful/expensive to dump the bitters out and start over.
    4. Add ice to fill the glass/base at least 3/4 full.
    5. Place the top onto the shaker.
      • If using a Boston shaker, pour the contents into the larger metal portion, then place the pint glass/metal base on top, nesting it into the larger metal piece.
      • Tilt the top portion toward you a bit so that there is a slight angle between the top and the base.
      • Tap the top of the glass/base to form the seal.
    6. Shake vigorously with a consistent rhythm for about 15 seconds or until the metal begins to frost on the outside.
      • With a Boston shaker, shake with the smaller glass/base on top so that you are shaking that part behind your head.
      • If you leak or if the glass comes off, you will fling it behind you, not on guests.
    7. Break the seal on your shaker.
      • If using a Boston shaker, hold the larger metal portion (glass/base part is on top).
      • Tap the side with the palm of your hand to break the seal at the point where the glass and metal meet.
      • Sometimes multiple taps are needed to break the seal.
      • Don’t bash it on the edge of the table –  no matter how tempting.
    8. Place your Hawthorne strainer on top of the metal part (if needed).
    9. Remove the ice from your chilling cocktail glass.
    10. Strain into the glass.
      • If using a Hawthorne strainer, you can push it forward on top to adjust how “hard” you are straining.
    11. Garnish your cocktail (if called for).
    12. Enjoy!

    10 Responses to “The Shaken Cocktail”

    1. Pineapple | The Straight Up

      […] the green chartreuse, fresh pineapple juice and lime juice to a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker begins to frost. Strain into a collins glass over ice. […]

    2. Dillionaire | The Straight Up

      […] gin, Cocchi Americano, lime juice and 1 full dropper of Boston Bittahs to the shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker begins to frost. Double strain into a rocks glass filled […]


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