Cocktail techniques #1: How to shake a cocktail?

shaking a cocktail with cocktail shaker

Shaking is the most common cocktail technique that not only properly mixes your ingredients but also employs necessary chilling, dilution into your drink and helps to aerate it.

When to shake and when to stir?

It’s all about the texture (mouthfeel) of the cocktail.

  • If cocktail has some cloudy ingredients such as fruit juices, eggs or dairy then you want a cocktail to be shaken(vigorously). If ingredients are combined properly it creates a frothy texture on the top and fresh aroma.
  • If the cocktail contains a clear(transparent) ingredients such as spirits, liqueurs, vermouths and so on then you want a cocktail to be stirred which chills and dilute a drink and should leave you with a soft and silky mouthfeel.


  1. Don’t forget to chill your glass, unless it comes straight out from the freezer.
  2. Measure all ingredients with a jigger, adding them into the shaker as you follow a cocktail recipe.
  3. Start with the smallest volume/cheapest ingredients so if you mess up you can start over again without any wastage.
  4. Put ice(cubed) as the last thing in your Boston glass or Shaker you want absolute control over the dilution.
  5. Shake vigorously for at least 12 seconds until ice cold, always taste your cocktail before serving to be sure that it’s ready.
  6. When a cocktail is shaken, it’s most likely that it also needs to be double strain using a fine mesh strainer to avoid tiny pieces of ice, fruits and other solids. (sometimes it might not be required)

General Shaking TIPS

  • Always fill your shaker with plenty of ice. If you use too little, ice will melt too quickly, resulting in an over-diluted drink.
  • Never shake carbonated(fizzy) ingredients.
  • Always hold the shaker firmly to avoid any unwanted accidents or spills.

Shaking cocktails with Boston shakers(2-piece) TIPS

Boston shakers or 2-piece shakers consists of two flat-bottomed cones. The larger is a tin usually made of stainless steel and the smaller cone can be a glass(Boston), stainless steel tin or even plastic.

Closing a Boston shaker to form a tight seal

Always build up ingredients in the smaller tin and use the larger tin to seal it off by tapping on the top with the palm of your hand.

Always shake with a larger tin facing the front to avoid spilling on your guests.

Releasing a Boston shaker

To break the seal when you’re done shaking, you’ll see that the tin and glass are in a curved shape and there’s a wider gap between them. So, hold the larger tin in one hand then lightly hit it on the side, right where the gap is starting to form(picture below).

releasing cocktail shaker technique

Shaking cocktails with Cobbler shaker (3-piece) TIPS

Typically three piece model which consist of tin, tightly fitted top and cap with a built in strainer. 

  • Hold the shaker firmly with one hand on the top, securing the cap, the other at the bottom and shake vigorously. Holding it over your shoulder ensures that if the cap comes off, your guests won’t get sprayed.

Occasionally, when the cocktail is shaken volume contracts creating a vacuum in the vessel. In this case, it will become difficult if not impossible to remove the top part.

There are several things that might cause this, such as mismatched parts of the Cobbler shaker.

How do you go about opening the shaker?

  1. Soak the shaker in the hot water.
  2. Try temperature differences, firstly run shaker through the cold water and then the hot one.

Here you can find our bar tools recommendation for cocktail shakers.

Shaking cocktails with egg white (Dry shake/Reversed Dry shake)

  • If the cocktail contains egg white, we usually need to use the dry shake technique which is basically shaking without ice first to emulsify the ingredients.
  • The other technique called reversed dry shake is shaking your cocktail with ice then straining back into the shaker and shaking without ice.

I personally prefer the second method which gives you better results.

Juices particularly lemon and lime juice work as a promoter of foam in cocktails and holds the texture. You can’t make foam just with the alcoholic products and egg white. So, if you see that a cocktail contains citrus fruit juice and sugar syrup, that’s a good indicator of using egg white.

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