A cocktail shaker is a crucial piece of barware, since it is the piece of equipment used to mix drinks. Both commercial and home bars usually have a stock of cocktail shakers on hand for mixing drinks, in a variety of materials and styles. At a minimum, a home bar should have at least one standard sized cocktail shaker for entertaining, and possibly more for making a large amount of mixed drinks. Many kitchen and liquor supply stores sell cocktail shakers to meet a variety of needs.
There are two basic types of cocktail shakers. The first is a traditional or cobbler shaker, and it is most often found at home. The traditional shaker has three pieces: a metal base, a snug fitting top, and a cap in the top which fits over a built-in strainer. To use a traditional shaker, the cap is removed, the ingredients are poured in, the shaker is capped and shaken briskly, and the drink is poured through the strainer. This type of cocktail shaker tends to be more cumbersome and slow, making it a less than ideal choice for busy bars.
A Boston shaker has two parts: a metal base and a nestling glass cup. To use this type of shaker, ingredients are poured into the base and the nestling cup is tapped in to seal the shaker. The drink is shaken briskly until the metal is cold, the shaker is tapped again to break the seal, and the drink is poured through a bar strainer into a glass. Bar strainers are vital tools to have around when Boston shakers are being used, since they ensure that drinks will be smooth and uniform.
While metal is the most common construction material for cocktail shakers, other materials such as glass and plastic can be used as well. However, since a cocktail shaker is intended to chill a drink while mixing it, many bartenders prefer metal, since it conducts cold well. The device may also be ornamented or etched, and cocktail shakers are often sold in a set with other bar tools which match. They also come in a range of sizes, from personal models for mixing single drinks to larger bar sizes for handling bigger volumes.
When purchasing a cocktail shaker, consumers should consider how many drinks they mix at a time. For people who entertain casually or only mix drinks rarely, a small traditional shaker is probably a good choice, since it will be easy to use. For larger mixing volume, however, an assortment of Boston shakers may be a better choice. They are generally designed to work with pint glasses, should the mixing glass which comes with the shaker become damaged or broken through rough use.