Tales of the Cocktail 2014 Recap: Day 2

Ah, the Cocktail Shaker.

It’s the quintessential image of a bartender: Cocktail shaker in one hand and bar towel in the other. But what is the story behind this fairly specific bar tool, and how do you choose the best cocktail shaker for you? This guide will give you all the information you need to get started.

Check out the links below if you want to jump ahead, or read on!

The Basics: What’s a Cocktail Shaker?

While we’ve probably all seen a picture of what a cocktail shaker looks like, (if not – you’re in luck, there are a lot of those images in this post!), it’s worth taking a second to go over the basics. A cocktail shaker is a special tool designed to do two things very well and very quickly:

The Basics: What’s a Cocktail Shaker?

If you’ve ever tried mixing sugar into your iced tea, you’ve probably noticed you had to stir for-ev-er before it’d finally dissolve. That’s a problem bartenders face all the time – cold ingredients take more effort to mix together. The cocktail shaker evolved as a great tool to expedite the stirring process behind the bar and (let’s not forget) look pretty awesome while doing it.

The reason? All of that ice in the shaker acts a bit like a “blender ball”. As a result, your liquid moves around a whole lot more than it would with just a spoon. More movement results in faster mixing.

Chill a Drink Super Fast:

While you’re stirring away on your iced tea, that bartender has already finished three cocktails and probably cleaned the bar as well. Cocktail shakers are extremely good at making lukewarm ingredients (like booze) really cold and really fast.

Why? While that ice is acting as a blender ball to help mix ingredients together, it’s also chilling down the ingredients as they pass by. Shaking the cocktail makes the ingredients pass over the ice much more frequently and the ice breaks into smaller pieces, offering more cold surface area. The result? One very cold drink, and very quickly!

Dilute the Drink

Wait, what? Like, on purpose?  Yep, it’s a little known fact that cocktails actually need to be diluted in order to taste right. In fact if you followed a cocktail recipe exactly and excluded the ice, mixed it all together really thoroughly and put it in the fridge to cool down, you’d find it probably tastes much too strong.

That’s because every cocktail recipe assumes 25-40% water dilution as a result of shaking. (Note: it’s actually more complicated than that and if you’re into nerdy cocktail science, you should totally read this.)

A Brief History of the Cocktail Shaker

The concept of the cocktail shaker is fairly simple: it’s a special container that’s

How to Choose the Best Cocktail Shaker for You

How to Shake a Cocktail

Yes, it is possible to shake a cocktail without looking ridiculous. And yeah, it can take some practice. (But really, looking ridiculous is half the fun!) Here’s a brief intro to shaking a cocktail, thanks to our lovely model (and experienced bartender) Chris.

1. Add your Ingredients


2. Close Your Shaker


3. Hold on Tight!


4. Shake shake shake!


5. Open it up


Cocktail Shaker Alternatives: How to Improvise if you don’t own a shaker

FAQs: Troubleshooting your Shaker & your shaken Cocktail

Chris Tunstall

Co-Founder of A Bar Above and career bartender and mixologist. I love experimenting, creating cocktails, and drinking Green Chartreuse.