Ah, the age-old question for the experienced bartender and cocktail enthusiast alike: Which is the best type of cocktail shaker for your bar? Your three options are the French shaker/Parisian shaker, the Boston, and the cobbler (also known as the three-piece cocktail shaker).
Today, we’ll explore the latter two, as they’re more common in design. Honestly, we’re a little partial to the Boston shaker here at A Bar Above, considering it’s the only type we sell– and there’s a reason for that!
But to be fair, we asked the professional bartenders over in our Craft Bartenders Community Facebook group (CBC) for their thoughtful comparison of cocktail shakers, and we’ll go through all the benefits and drawbacks of these two types of shakers so you can make the call about which is the perfect one for your bar.
WHY DO YOU NEED A COCKTAIL SHAKER?
Why do you even need a cocktail shaker in the first place? Well, a shaker is a useful bar tool used for drinks that include multiple ingredients besides the spirit itself– such as mixers, fruit, muddled mint, etc. (Read more about when you should mix a drink here.)
It also achieves a few effects you can’t get just by pouring a spirit and mixer over each other in a glass.
MIXING YOUR COLD COCKTAIL INGREDIENTS
Cold ingredients are hard to mix! It’ll take you forever to dissolve sugar or syrup in a cold beverage. But with a shaker… Voila! Rapidly shake your drink with ice for 10-15 seconds, and your ingredients will be perfectly combined.
The ice chips inside the shaker help move the liquid around a lot more than a spoon can. (Sorry, bar spoon— You’re awesome, but sometimes ingredients need a good, hard shake.) This is also why I recommend metal tins (like our stainless steel shakers) and not a glass shaker– you’re bound to break it with all that motion.
YOUR COCKTAIL GETS COLDER FASTER
Using a shaker filled with ice rather than a spoon also chills your beverage much more quickly. The ice cools down the lukewarm ingredients as it whips around them; when you’re stirring, the ice just can’t cover that much area in a such short amount of time.
IDEAL DILUTION FOR YOUR COCKTAIL
Cocktail recipes actually account for water dilution, so you need the ice to break apart and dilute your drink. Otherwise, the original recipe would actually be too strong! You don’t get as much immediate dilution when stirring a spirit-forward cocktail as you do from shaking.
THE BEST TYPE OF SHAKER FOR YOUR BAR: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE COBBLER AND BOSTON SHAKER
When polling our community group and interviewing our very own Chris Tunstall and resident bartender, Rob Harrah, it really seems like the pros prefer the Boston. However, the style of shaker you should chose comes down to these few elements:
- Cocktail ingredients: Mixing complicated cocktails that require room will determine the type of shaker you need (both liquid ingredients and things like fruit and herbs).
- Volume: If you’re in a busy bar making multiple drinks at once or making a simple drink at home, the size of your shaker will matter.
- Whether you value style over functionality or vice versa plays a big part in your decision!
Side note: Ideally, you’d use a metal tin (rather than using, say, a pint glass as half of your Boston-style shaker, which can break easily), so that’s what we’ll focus on today.
COMPARING THE BOSTON VS COBBLER SHAKER
The Boston is a 2-piece shaker consisting of one smaller and one larger metal cup that you put together to create a vacuum seal while shaking your cocktail. It’s pretty straightforward to use and really easy to clean, making it the common type of shaker for bars, but it does require additional tools.
The average cobbler shaker is a 3-piece cocktail shaker consisting of a tumbler portion, a lid with built-in strainer holes, and a small cap. It’s meant to be a one-stop shop for cocktail lovers since you can theoretically strain directly from it (more on that below) and is the more classic, vintage design.
Although you can use the cobbler without other bar tools, you may still want separate strainers and jiggers anyway because the included strainer usually isn’t so great, and the cap isn’t always 1 ounce.
“Cobbler, I don’t like. [It’s] not as easy to clean, and I don’t think it looks professional as it looks like something you can use at home. Bar setting, I would go Boston. […] Personal opinion!” –Harry McCaul, CBC member
This heavyweight two-piece shaker has a greater drink capacity than its rival, making it the ideal size for shaking two cocktails at once or creating a cocktail with egg whites, like a Whiskey Sour. (More space in the shaker tin allows for more air, creating fluffier egg white foam.)
“I like to use the Boston shakers because of the speed, control, and consistency I get out of them, and even more importantly, they’re reliable. Plus the way they are designed, especially ours, they have more flexibility, allowing them to snap in and out of each other with ease while still maintaining a solid seal on the liquid inside. It’s not like pulling teeth to get the top off.” –Rob Harrah, in-house bartender for A Bar Above
- They create an easy-to-form, airtight seal.
- This beverage shaker has a larger capacity for mixing two cocktails.
- A two-piece cocktail shaker means you have fewer parts to lose or have pop off.
- In our shop, we have two versions: Weighted/weighted shaker tins and weighted/unweighted so that you can choose the weight that is right for you.
- You can easily use them with one hand.
- The basic, two-tin design is extremely easy to clean, especially if you make sure yours is dishwasher safe. (FYI, our stainless steel Boston shaker is just that, even for commercial dishwashers!)
- They pair perfectly with a Hawthorne strainer– but ours also fits a Julep strainer (typically used with a mixing glass) for versatility.
“Boston. Two tins, less pieces to lose, but more useful as both pieces are containers…. Liquid in short cup, ice in tall cup, and you don’t bring the two together until you really need to, thereby avoiding over-dilution of the liquid while you’re building the ‘dry’ ingredients.” –Marcus Deaves, CBC member
- Two-piece Boston shakers require a separate strainer and jigger— although you may want these additional tools anyway, even with a cobbler.
- It takes a little training to figure out how to break the tight seal of this closed container– although once you get it, you can really show off your cocktail shaker skills!
Meant to be an all-in-one shaker, these three-piece shakers boast a classic design and are easy-to-use for beginners. They are also popular for the Japanese bartender, who often makes one cocktail at a time.
“The one benefit to cobbler shakers vs Boston shakers is that the cobbler shaker comes in a variety of sizes. This is helpful if a bar or restaurant is doing table-side cocktails. […] Cobbler shakers take less training to use properly since there is little-to-no opportunity for the shaker to break open. So the server can have a small single serving cobbler shaker for every cocktail at the table and shake it to order.” –Chris Tunstall
- The sleek, attractive, all-in-one design make the cobbler a good-looking shaker for a bar cart and a decent option for someone with minimal space.
- The built-in strainer makes this an all-in-one tool in theory, meaning you don’t have to have a separate Hawthorne strainer if you don’t want to. (However, the integrated strainer is also a con for many professional bartenders– See below for more info.) If it works, then this is great for the amateur home bartender who hasn’t stocked up on cocktail strainers and other equipment yet.
- Depending on the size and style, the cap is often 1 oz, serving as a built-in jigger and eliminating the need for additional tools (such as a traditional 2-ounce jigger). This isn’t always the case, though, so buy accordingly if that’s important to you!
- It’s useful for more advanced techniques like the Japanese shake, making it a standard for Japanese bartenders.
“Honestly, I love my cobblers. They just feel so good to hold. It’s like a nice chilly massage to shake them. […] And if you have the time to do one drink at a time, it just feels more appropriate to me to use a smaller cobbler shaker than a super-sized Boston shaker for 3 oz of liquid. But don’t get a big cobbler shaker. It ruins the whole point.” –Ben Lawton, CBC member
- The included strainer has bigger holes, letting pieces of ice and ingredients slip into your mixed drink– and any ingredient you muddle will get stuck in that cap!
- The strainer of the cobbler-style shaker can also be messy and less precise than a Hawthorne strainer or fine strainer, causing spills.
- This 3-piece shaker relies on the cap, which is small and easy to lose.
- The cap can also fly off due to pressure when shaking your cocktail.
- The natural seal of the metal tin is sometimes nearly impossible to break, causing a need to run them under warm water (which can heat up your drink!).
- The cobbler typically has a smaller capacity, meaning less space to build multiple cocktails or shake egg whites.
- There is a wider variation in quality and design, which means that parts are basically impossible to replace without buying a whole new set.
- With the strainer cap, they’re more difficult to clean than a 2-piece shaker, making them less ideal for a bar setting.
“I prefer a weighted Boston shaker; it’s more convenient, more professional, and I don’t have to deal with losing a dumb cap like on a cobbler.” –Kelly Tyree, CBC member
FOR THE BUSIEST BARTENDER OR THE COCKTAIL LOVER: WHICH SHAKER TO CHOOSE?
The overall consensus seems to be that bartenders love the Boston tin shaker. However, if you’re only going to be mixing simple drinks for party guests and yourself, you can probably get away with the alluring shape (but perhaps the less perfect design) of the cobbler shaker.
“For the home bartender it comes down to how often they shake drinks. If you’re making drinks, especially drinks with muddled ingredients, often and/or you like to entertain, then I recommend the Boston for a workhorse. For the majority of home bartenders, a good quality cobbler shaker is probably sufficient; it also looks nicer if it’s being stored on a bar cart versus the more utilitarian Boston.” –Michael Lindgren, CBC member
So what do you think? Let us know in the comments which type of this basic tool is your go-to shaker! And if you’re sold on the Boston shaker, definitely pick up our personal favorite stainless-steel cocktail shaker (or our gold or copper shaker versions) in our shop.
We also have a 4-piece cocktail shaker set that includes a Japanese jigger and Hawthorne strainer as well, which is great for amateur bartenders just starting out or for those who need to replace their equipment.
And we even cater to restaurants and bars, so if you’re a professional who detests your cocktail tools at work, tell your bar manager to order from us. We’re pretty sure ours will become your favorite cocktail shaker. Just sayin’.