Cocktail Shakers

Published September 1, 2010. From Cook's Illustrated.

Bartenders ask: Shaken or Stirred? We asked: Cobbler or Boston style?

Overview:

Cocktail shakers bring a sense of style to a party, but for our tests, we focused on more pragmatic concerns: We wanted a comfortable-to-use, leak-proof shaker that would combine liquors and flavorings effectively, efficiently chill the liquid, and pour the mixture easily into a v-shaped martini glass. We encountered a lot more problems than we anticipated.

Before we could start testing, we had to narrow the field. At the time of publication, eBay alone listed 641 shakers for sale, very few of which were identical. Most shakers sold today, however, are one of two types: cobbler (glass, stainless steel, or acrylic) or Boston (a combination of glass and stainless steel).

The cobbler shaker is the type usually found in home bars. It's normally made of three pieces: a metal, glass, or acrylic base, a lid (usually stainless steel) with a built-in strainer, and a small cap that fits over the lid. Ice and liquid are added to the base, the top sections are attached, the mixture is shaken, the cap is removed, and the liquid is poured… read more

Cocktail shakers bring a sense of style to a party, but for our tests, we focused on more pragmatic concerns: We wanted a comfortable-to-use, leak-proof shaker that would combine liquors and flavorings effectively, efficiently chill the liquid, and pour the mixture easily into a v-shaped martini glass. We encountered a lot more problems than we anticipated.

Before we could start testing, we had to narrow the field. At the time of publication, eBay alone listed 641 shakers for sale, very few of which were identical. Most shakers sold today, however, are one of two types: cobbler (glass, stainless steel, or acrylic) or Boston (a combination of glass and stainless steel).

The cobbler shaker is the type usually found in home bars. It's normally made of three pieces: a metal, glass, or acrylic base, a lid (usually stainless steel) with a built-in strainer, and a small cap that fits over the lid. Ice and liquid are added to the base, the top sections are attached, the mixture is shaken, the cap is removed, and the liquid is poured through the strainer into the glass. The problems? The lid wasn't snug enough, so liquid sprayed everywhere during shaking; the lid fit too snugly, so that once the metal contracted from the chill, we had to wait for the metal to warm up and expand before we could unscrew the lid; the strainer holes in the lid were so small that surface tension caused liquid to pool on top of the holes, causing overflow when we removed the cap.

The Boston shaker is the shaker of choice for professionals; when handled properly, it affords the bartender better control and security against leakage. It's a two-tumbler operation, in which a large metal tumbler is inverted over a smaller glass tumbler and the two are then shaken. If arranged properly, a seal forms between the two tumblers that prohibits leaking; a light tap just below the joint will break the seal. The problems? The making and breaking of the seal, both of which take practice. Some of our testers complained that the Boston shaker demands a two-handed, two-step operation: After shaking, the tumbler is topped with a separate strainer that holds back the ice when the cocktail is poured. That said, two of our testers who had been professional bartenders in previous careers, recommend the Boston style for anyone who mixes a lot of drinks.

For most home-entertaining purposes, though, we recommend the safer, easier-to-use cobbler style. We developed three general preferences in this category. First, we preferred stainless steel to glass and acrylic. Stainless steel shakers chill more quickly, the material doesn't break, and the lids on these shakers formed the most secure seal. (In fact, despite a rubber ring, one of the glass shakers was the worst leaker.) Second, we found that the shakers made with stronger stainless steel (18/10 or 18/8) rather than lighter stainless steel were better at managing the contracting/expanding problem that creates tight, hard-to-remove lids, though there were exceptions. Finally, we found that the strainer holes had to be large enough to prevent the surface tension that causes liquid to pool on top of the strainer after shaking.

Update:

A cocktail shaker is an essential bar tool for any master of mixology (or even a talented amateur). Our favorite was a sleek, champion chiller which easily dispenses drinks into a tumbler or goblet—won our testing, despite its occasionally slippery grip once filled with chilled cocktails. So when Metrokane, its manufacturer, introduced another product, we pitted the two models in a head-to-head Tom Collins contest to determine the true mix master. One immediately bested the other: Just as with the travel coffee mug it resembles, its double-walled canister prevented pesky condensation, so you get dry, slip-free gripping. Meanwhile, its other features—a convenient pop-up spout and a leak-free lid (make sure you feel it snap shut before shaking)—were equally impressive. It may not be as slick-looking as its predecessor, but this shaker shook out as our new favorite.

less
  • Product Tested

  • Prices are subject to change.
  • Recommended - Best Cobbler-Style Shaker

    Metrokane Fliptop Cocktail Shaker

    A step up from our previous favorite, the Metrokane Bullet, this shaker’s double-walled steel canister prevents condensation from forming on the outside, and the pop-up top locked securely into place for leak-free mixing. Translation? A good, dry grip when you shake it. Though the pour spout was slightly wider than those of other models, the shaker did not spill or struggle to pour into any style of stemware.

    $29.95

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended - Best Boston-Style Shaker

    WMF Boston Cocktail Shaker, Manhattan Collection

    For experienced bartenders, this shaker had no drawbacks: When fitted together properly, it didn't leak, and when tapped just right, the two tumblers came apart easily. Because it's really just two glasses, it was also very easy to clean. Testers appreciated the measurements printed on the glass, calibrated in both ounces and centiliters. But inexperienced users had problems creating a leak-proof seal, and several testers disliked having to use both hands for shaking as well as having to use a separate strainer.

    29.99

  • Recommended

    Metrokane Bullet Cocktail Shaker

    Besides meeting our primary qualifications--no leaking, no problem unscrewing lid, no pooling on strainer, and easy pouring--even testers with small hands found that they could use it to shake a cocktail with just one hand. Some testers disliked the design, an art deco-style bullet shape, but the bullet-shaped top piece is just a decoration and can be removed.

    $28.99

    BUY NOW Amazon
  • Recommended with Reservations

    Oggi Dial-a-Drink Stainless Steel Cocktail Shaker

    This shaker comes with a two part base--the outside canister dials over a marked inside canister that lists the ingredients for 15 cocktail recipes (the base is the same one used in the Norpro shaker, rated below). We didn't find the dial-a-recipe feature useful. The lettering is almost impossible to read, and many of the 15 cocktails listed are not exactly popular (have you ever mixed up a Palm Beach or a Between the Sheets?). While the shaker passed our primary tests—it didn't leak, the lid came off easily, and the strainer holes are a good size (making for an easy pour)—two vigorous testers caused its outside base to fly off, creating a risk for those standing nearby. Testers with smaller hands also felt that it was too big to be comfortable for one-handed shaking.

    $34.95

  • Not Recommended

    Acryl Cocktail Shaker

    For the first part of our tests, we thought this would be a great shaker to bring on picnics: It's light and unbreakable, it didn't leak, and the lid comes off easily. But when we took the cap off, our hands were drenched with liquid: The strainer holes were so small that a good amount of liquid stayed on top.

    $7.95

  • Not Recommended

    Norpro Recipe Cocktail Shaker

    The base is identical to the Oggi base, although the recipe selection is slightly different. The lid on this shaker fits too tightly, however, and the revolving base makes it hard to get a good grip. The strainer holes are also smaller than those on the Oggi, which made for messy pooling and an awkward pour. Testers with smaller hands complained that this shaker, like the Oggi, was heavy and bulky.

    $34.99

  • Not Recommended

    WMF Stainless Steel Cocktail Shaker with Built-In Strainer

    The sleek design looks great, but its ill-fitting cap not only leaked but also came off during shaking. Some testers found it hard to hold all three pieces of the shaker together because of its elongated design—another factor that sometimes caused the cap to fly off.

    $29.99

  • Not Recommended

    Precidio Olives Cocktail Shaker

    Its "controversial" appearance notwithstanding (some testers felt that the four olives painted on the glass made this shaker suitable only for martinis), this shaker was a poor performer. Even with the rubber seal on the cap, the shaker eaked. It's also heavy, and the large top made one-handed shaking a challenge.

    $17.95

  • Not Recommended

    Liss Mesh Cobbler Shaker

    Some users loved the appearance of the mesh, but others found it uncomfortable, like "grabbing onto a chain link fence." The real problem was the diminutive size of the lid, strainer holes, and cap. The tiny strainer holes prevented easy drainage, and the opening was too small to wash without the help of a bottle brush.

    $39.99

  • Not Recommended

    Norpro Cocktail Shaker Set

    Norpro's version of the Boston shaker has a rubber rim on the glass tumbler to help amateurs create a tight seal. Good intention, perhaps, but poor execution: The rubber seal leaked like a sieve. Once wet, the rubber gripped the metal tumbler, making it difficult to get the lid off: One tester spilled the remaining contents with one strong tug.

    $19.95

In My Favorites
Please Wait…
Remove Favorite
Add to custom collection