How we tested
There are two basic types of cocktail shakers: Boston shakers and cobbler shakers. The Boston shaker consists of two cups of slightly different sizes. You build the cocktail in the smaller cup, invert it into the larger one at a slight angle, tap the two together firmly to create a tight seal, shake, unseal, and use a separate strainer to decant the mixture into a serving glass. The cobbler shaker usually has three parts: a bottom cup, a top half with a built-in strainer, and a cap that fits over the open strainer. After building your cocktail in the bottom cup, you just fit on the strainer top, cap it, shake, uncap, and decant.
To find the best cocktail shaker in each style for the home bartender, we bought three Boston and eight cobbler shakers (priced about $9.00 to $42.00) and used them to make shaken, stirred, and muddled drinks. Because we wanted to be able to make one or two cocktails at a time, we focused on models with a capacity of at least 18 ounces.
One fundamental problem emerged immediately. In theory, cobbler shakers offer simplicity and convenience for novice bartenders—because the strainer is built in and the other parts just join together, no extra gear or expertise is required to use it. In practice, however, the parts rarely fit together properly, making most of these shakers a pain to handle. Several of the models had strainer tops that were too loose, causing the shakers to leak or break apart during use. Other cobblers had the opposite problem: Their parts fit together too tightly, making them harder to open, especially when cold and wet.
Only two of the cobblers were both leakproof and consistently easy to open and close. Of these, we preferred the model that had a larger capacity. Bigger shakers not only allow you to make more drinks at a time but also provide more room for ice and liquids to circulate, enabling you to chill and dilute your cocktail to the appropriate levels more quickly. (Dilution isn’t a bad word here; water takes the harsh edge off alcohol and acid, bringing balance to your cocktail.)
Our favorite cobbler shaker, the Tovolo Stainless Steel 4-in-1 Cocktail Shaker, holds 24 ounces. To use it, you attach a strainer to the base with a simple twist and then snap on a domed top, which doubles as a 1- and 2-ounce jigger. The shaker’s carafe-like shape was easy for testers of all hand sizes to grip, and its wide mouth made it a breeze to load with ice, stir or muddle drinks in, and clean. If you’re new to making cocktails, this inexpensive shaker is an excellent choice.
But if you’re up for a little more of a challenge, we also recommend trying a Boston shaker. Boston shakers have a steeper learning curve—it takes a bit of practice to securely seal and unseal one. But professional bartenders swear by them, and for good reasons: Used correctly, Boston shakers form leakproof seals more quickly and more reliably than most cobbler shakers. They also have no small parts to get lost or stuck (although you do have to buy a separate strainer) and are very simple to clean.
Although we liked all three of the Boston shakers in our testing, we gave the edge to The Boston Shaker’s Professional Boston Shaker, Weighted. With a 28-ounce capacity, it’s large but relatively comfortable to hold with two hands. And because the base is reinforced with an extra layer of metal, or “weighted,” the bottom cup won’t tip over easily on the counter. The wide mouth and medium height of its sturdy, tempered mixing glass made for effortless filling, stirring, muddling, and cleaning. And the glass itself sat low in the larger cup, making it especially easy to form and maintain a long-lasting seal, even after shaking a famously endurance-testing Ramos Gin Fizz for a few minutes.
We tested three Boston shakers and eight cobbler shakers with capacities ranging from 16 to 28 ounces and priced from $8.99 to $41.95, using them to make stirred, muddled, and shaken drinks. We evaluated the shakers on how easy they were to fill with ice, close, shake, open, and clean; how comfortable, secure, and durable they were; and how consistently they formed leakproof seals. All models were purchased online and are ranked in order of preference.
Ease of Use: We awarded more points to well-balanced shakers that were easy to fill with ice, close, shake, and open. We also promoted shakers that strained drinks quickly, without letting large chunks of ice or mint through, and shakers that allowed us to stir and muddle cocktails easily.
Comfort: Shakers that could be comfortably used by both large- and small-handed testers received more points. Shakers that chilled hands as well as drinks received small deductions.
Security: We gave more points to shakers that consistently formed tight, leakproof seals. We deducted points from shakers that had loose parts.
Durability and Cleanup: We awarded more points to shakers that were easy to clean by hand and did not warp, retain water, or leak after 10 washes.