Mixing Cocktails Part I: How to Shake

The cocktails we’ve been sharing have piqued your interest, you’ve got the necessary spirits and mixers, and you’re ready to make that Sidecar, Luigi Cocktail, or Corpse Reviver #3. You probably know the next step is mixing your cocktail, but you’ve got some questions. Today’s your lucky day because we’ve got some answers!

There are two main ways to mix together spirits, juices, liqueurs, and bitters to get a delicious cocktail; stirring and shaking. You’ve guessed it, today we’re going to cover shaking.

When do I shake?

Typically, you want to shake when your drink contains fruit juices, eggs, creams, or opaque liqueurs. Shaking a cocktail mixes and cools your ingredients very quickly, so you usually you only shake for about 10-20 seconds.

What tools do I need to shake?

First off you need a shaker, and depending on what shaker you choose, you may need a strainer. Here are the most popular options:

Cobbler Shaker


When most people think “cocktail shaker”, this is what pops into their mind. This cobbler is made of three parts; the cap, the strainer, and the shaker cup. The built-in strainer will filter out unwanted ice cube, shards, or anything else you may not want in your cocktail.

Boston Shaker (+ Hawthorne strainer)


This style shaker is made from two containers; one small and one large, which make one sealed container when combined. The larger is almost always a stainless steel container, and the smaller is either stainless steel or a pint glass*.

* If your second shaking cup is made of glass, ensure it’s tempered glass. Standard beer pint glasses will potentially shatter and ruin your day (by cutting you up in all sorts of nasty ways).



When it comes to shaking, your strainer of choice will be the The Hawthorne strainer. This is considered the “standard” strainer which is designed to catch the big “rocks”, and larger herbs out of your drink. This strainer should suffice for most people.

To filter your drink even more (you picky bastard!), you can use a fine mesh cocktail strainer and perform a “double strain”.

What shaker should I use?

This comes down to personal preference, so use whatever you feel comfortable with. Remember, you’re the boss at this bar, you call all the shots!

Where do I buy it?

Let’s start with where NOT to buy it. We’ve found that shakers found in department or home furnishing stores aren’t ideal. They’re more showpieces and not always very effective shakers. They’re also often overpriced and don’t create a good seal either. You don’t need to break the bank for a shaker, especially your first one.

We recommend you pick a shaker from online suppliers such as Cocktail Kingdom, Boston Shaker, or even Amazon. If you’re looking for a starter shaker, stainless steel is where you’ll see the best bang-for-buck. I’ve been using this very inexpensive cobbler from Amazon that is miles better than any of the more expensive shakers we’ve tried.

OK, got the tools. How do I shake?


Shake the cocktail like you’re trying to wake it up, not put it to sleep!

This is how you would shake with both sets of tools outlined above:

With the Cobbler:

  1. Start with all three parts separated.
  2. In a shaker cup, add all ingredients, excluding the carbonated ones, from the cheapest to most expensive (less waste if you mess up, and have to restart).
  3. Fill two thirds of the shaker cup with ice.
  4. Place the strainer part on the cup ensuring a snug fit.
  5. Place the cap on the shaker top, again, ensuring snug fit. Do not slam or attempt to over tighten it or the cap will get stuck.
  6. To hold the shaker, with your main hand grasp the shaker cup and strainer. With the same hand place your index finger on top of the cap. Optionally, grasp the base of the shaker with your other hand.
  7. Shake by pushing the shaker away from your body, then back in. Do this for about 15-20 seconds. Do it like you are trying to wake up the cocktail, not put it to sleep!
  8. Remove cap.
  9. Strain into glass.
  10. Garnish and enjoy your tasty beverage.

With the Boston Shaker:

  1. In the small tin or pint glass, add all ingredients from the cheapest to most expensive.
  2. Fill about half of the large tin with ice.
  3. Pour ingredients from small tin into large tin.
  4. Place the opening of the small tin into the large tin.
  5. Give the bottom of the small tin a light pound with the palm of your hand to create the seal (if you can lift the bottom tin by only grabbing the top one, you’ve got a seal!).
  6. Grab the shaker with the small tin closer to your body.
  7. Place a few fingers at either end of the combined tins.
  8. Shake by pushing the shaker away from your body, then back in, doing this for about 15-20 seconds. Do it like you are trying to wake up the cocktail, not put it to sleep!
  9. Place the large tin bottom down, squeezing the sides of it and simultaneously pushing the smaller tin away to unlock.
  10. Place the hawthorne strainer in the large tin
  11. Grasp the large tin close to the top placing your index finger on top of the hawthorne strainer to hold it in place
  12. Pour your drink through the strainer into your glass
  13. Optionally, you can double strain your drink. Simply pour drink through fine mesh strainer as your pour it into your glass.
  14. Garnish and enjoy your tasty beverage.

Stay tuned next week for Mixing Cocktails – Part II, where we’ll cover stirring. What are you waiting for? Go pick a shaken cocktail, and get shaking!

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  • Anthony Levere March 12, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    You’ve inspired me to purchase my first shaker. I think Amazon owes you a commission.

    • Brandon Wright March 12, 2015 at 7:59 pm

      Haha, awesome. Shake some sh!t up!