The Cocktail Shaker: Barware Basics

No matter your level of bartending experience, it’s almost guaranteed that you recognize the cocktail shaker. A foundational piece of equipment for any bartender, it’s often the center of attention while shaken vigorously in the preparation of cocktails. But what does a cocktail shaker do and what should you know when selecting one for your home bar?

In this post I’ll cover what I’ve learned about these iconic pieces of equipment and help you understand the things you’ll want to know about cocktail shakers.

Cocktail Shakers

What is a Cocktail Shaker?

Cocktail shakers are used to quickly and efficiently blend cocktails. Among the many ways to mix drinks, shaking is often used and the cocktail shaker is designed for this purpose. Also known as a bar shaker, it’s a sealed cylinder to which ice and ingredients are added for the purpose of shaking.

Origins of the Bar Shaker

Today’s shaker has a long and colorful past. Dating back to 7000 BC, a shake mixer fashioned from a gourd was used in South America, while its use can also be traced to Egypt in 3500 BC.

Later in the 19th century, cocktail shakers as we now know them made an appearance. Beginning simply as two containers used to mix a beverage by transferring liquid, those containers were eventually combined to create the basic cocktail shaker. Needless to say, this bar appliance evolved from there to become available in three basic designs.

3 Types of Cocktail Shakers

Although the basic shaker only requires two pieces, this has changed over time to accommodate drink styles and personal preferences. Today, modern cocktail shakers are typically made of stainless steel and classified into three different types. Frankly there’s no right or wrong choice, so you’re welcome to select the type with which you feel most comfortable.

The Cobbler Shaker

Also known as the Three-Piece Shaker, the Cobbler Shaker includes a large metal shaking tin, a tightly fitting lid and a smaller cap that covers a strainer that’s integrated into the lid. Offering a completely integrated design that includes a strainer, the Cobbler Shaker is a good choice for most beginners. However, there are some downsides too. Pouring drinks from Cobbler Shakers tends to take more time and the tin can contract due to the cold which makes taking it apart difficult.
A Cobbler Cocktail Shaker
Integrated StrainerGets Stuck
SimpleSlower to Use
Good for the NoviceMore Parts to Clean

Two Options

  • Winco 30oz. Stainless Steel Bar Shaker – Winco tends to be the budget option in barware, which is why I bought this one. Truth be told, I used to manage a restaurant and this is what we used. This Boston Shaker is durable and reasonably attractive. Note: You’ll need a mixing glass or a sturdy pint glass as the second piece or you’ll make a mess 😉 Cost: About $6
  • 2 Piece Boston Shaker Set by Top Shelf Bar Supply – This set includes 18oz. and 28oz. stainless steel cups that make mixing cocktails a pleasure. The larger cup is weighted to prevent leakage and this set was described by one reviewer as “clean, simple and elegant.”
    Cost: About $20

The Boston Shaker

Perhaps the closest to the original design of the 19th century, the Boston Shaker is a two-piece device that is simple and effective. Typically there is one larger tin that is accompanied by another smaller mixing vessel which can be made of glass or metal. The glass is often just a pint glass, while the metal alternative is often referred to as a “cheater tin.”
The Boston Cocktail Shaker

While simple in design, the Boston Shaker may take a bit more skill to use. Assembling this shaker must be done carefully to ensure that a water tight seal is achieved or you’ll be wearing a cocktail 😉 In addition separating the parts of the Boston Shaker must also be done with care, especially when using a pint glass because it can be easily broken. And since it’s simply made up of two mixing cups, there’s no strainer so that will require taking another step when mixing cocktails. While this style of cocktail shaker is often the most visible in today’s bars and lounges, it may not be the best choice for beginners.

FasterRequires Skill
Easy to CleanGlass Can Break

Two Options

  • Homdox 21oz. Stainless Steel Cobbler Shaker – Truthfully my go-to budget option would normally be a Winco product, but the reviews suggested that it was a total piece of crap. This Hodox shaker is the next best thing. It’s perfect for beginners because it’s light, easy to use and easy to wash. Cost About $15
  • OXO 16oz. Stainless Steel Cocktail Shaker – If you want to take a step beyond the average, this ergonomically designed OXO Cobbler Shaker is it. This product is well insulated to prevent “cold hand” and it’s solid silicon seal prevents leaks. Also this is an ideal gift for a friend. Cost About $30.

The French Cocktail Shaker

Oh those French, they always have to be different…. But Vive la difference! The French Cocktail Shaker (aka the Parisian Cocktail Shaker) is a simplified version of the Cobbler. Without the integrated strainer in the lid, the French Shaker is a two-piece shaker and requires the use of a bar strainer. Frankly I think that the main benefit of the style of is that it is more stylish than the others and when mixing drinks, a little style never hurts.
The French Cocktail Shaker

The French shaker is basically like the cobbler shaker but without the built-in strainer. And like the Boston shaker, it needs something to keep the ice from pouring with the drinks. Although rarely used in the past, the French shaker has become increasingly popular. Cost $15 +

StylishDifficult to Find
SimpleMore Expensive
Good for the Novice-
Easy to Clean-

One Good Option

Parisienne 20oz. Cocktail Shaker – It all comes down to style, and this French-style cocktail shaker has it. Made by Keg Works, this option combines smooth lines with superior functionality. It’s so Euro that you’ll need to buy a beret… Regardless this will look great and function well in any home bar. Cost About $17


When it’s time to properly mix your cocktails, having the right cocktail shaker on hand can make a big difference. Sure there are all sorts of styles, but use these tips to find the right shaker for you. You and your guests are certainly worth it.