Here’s how to use it.

By Katie Macdonald
February 19, 2020
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When I started hosting dinner parties, I defaulted to serving a case of beer or bottles of wine. It’s not that I didn’t love a margarita or martini (on the rocks and dirty, respectively), but the thought of shaking and stirring for a crowd seemed overwhelming. To conquer my fear, my very thoughtful roommate brought me to a class on making cocktails at Liquor Lab in downtown Manhattan. The first thing on the menu: mastering a cocktail shaker. 

A proper shaker is an indispensable tool for beginners and professionals alike. It’s designed to properly seal liquid inside so you can quickly mix ingredients without fear of spilling, and its metal body rapidly chills your liquids while also diluting ice to balance the drink. Plus, the vigorous shaking transforms drinks driven by egg, dairy, and citrus into light and frothy sips.

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In the Liquor Lab class, we used a Boston shaker. It’s a bartender favorite because of its simplicity and effectiveness. The tool consists of just two cups—either both made of steel or one steel and one tempered glass—that create a vacuum seal when whacked together. Unlike Cobbler shakers, which include a lid and built-in strainer, the Boston style is less likely to leak or freeze shut and is easier to clean. 

Using a Boston shaker has a bit of a learning curve and does require a separate strainer, but it’s truly the speediest option once you’re trained. Liquor Lab chief cocktail officer Freddie Sarkis, who prefers a Boston shaker with glass to see all of the ingredients, walked me through the steps one more time post-class over email:

“Always build your drink in the shaking glass side of the shaker. Add your ingredients (least to most expensive please). Add your ice to your mixing glass, and then transfer the glass into the tin. Ensure it’s sealed by tapping it on top, and shake until ice cold! To release the tin, hold it firmly in your off hand with your thumb on the point where you see the glass and metal meet. Wrap your hand around the tin and you should be holding it at 9 o’clock (unless you’re left-handed. Then you should be holding it at 3 o’clock). With the *heel* of your palm (the strongest part of your palm), give it a firm tap or strike on the opposite side of where you’re holding on the metal. The tin should release and you can easily pull the glass out.”

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He also had a couple more suggestions we didn’t discuss in class. First, use two hands when shaking to give you more control and reduce the chance of sending your tin flying. Also, never bang the shaker on the bar to release that vacuum seal.

“You can easily bend the tin and then not form a proper seal and end up leaking everywhere whilst you shake,” he wrote.

That very night after class, I went home and promptly ordered a Boston shaker of my own. I settled on this 5-piece set on Amazon because it includes both a tempered mixing glass (like we used) and a Hawthorne strainer for easy serving. Next time I host a dinner party, I’ll be ready to shake up my drink routine.