How to Use a Cocktail Shaker to Mix Drinks Like a Pro

Mix cocktails & mocktails with ease using a cocktail shaker. The primary tool in a bartender's toolbox is easy to use at home to make delicious drinks.

Updated November 10, 2023
Making home made gin and tonic

The cocktail shaker is an essential tool in any home bartender's toolbox. And with the proper techniques, you can mix all the drinks your heart desires. So learn the right way to use a cocktail shaker, and you'll be pouring drinks for all your friends in no time.

How to Use a Cocktail Shaker

Cocktail shakers are a must in bartending. They mix, chill, muddle, and aerate cocktails so they're the perfect chilly temperature and consistency. And if you're working with egg whites, dairy, or other creamy ingredients, a cocktail shaker adds the perfect amount of froth or foam for a pretty and smooth drink.

When building a cocktail in a shaker or mixing glass: 

  1. Always start with the ice, unless otherwise instructed. 
  2. Next, add ingredients from the lowest cheapest ingredients (syrups and juices) to the most expensive (spirits). Why? So that if you make a mistake, you won't lose the most precious ingredient if you have to dump it out and start over.
  3. Once your ingredients are together in the shaker, shake or stir, then strain or even double strain into the proper glassware.
  4. Top your drink off with any sparkling ingredients. and garnish as needed. It's that easy to make a cocktail.

The Three Main Types of Cocktail Shaker

When mixing up a cocktail or mocktail, you have three shaker options. Which you use comes down to personal preference when making a cocktail with a Boston, Parisian, or cobbler shaker. 

Types of Cocktail Shaker

How to Use a Boston Shaker

A Boston shaker, also called the Boston glass if you use a pint glass instead of a second tin, might be the most common of all shakers. Typically, there's one large tin and a second tin that's smaller. Sometimes a pint glass is used in place of the second tin.

  1. Build your drink in the larger of the two tins.
  2. Add the smaller tin at a slight angle so that it forms a "lid."
  3. Give the smaller tin a solid whack with the heel of your hand on the top so it seals, then give it a good and thorough shake. Always, always, always hold one tin with each hand so that your cocktail doesn't end up as artwork on the ceiling, wall, floor, or you.
  4. To break the seal, give the top tin a solid smack with the palm of your hand.
  5. Remove the top tin.
  6. Pour the drink through a strainer so you're only left with fresh and the coldest ice in your cocktail in the glass. 
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How to Roll Drinks With a Boston Shaker

Rolling drinks might sound fancy, but it's a quick and easy way to mix. Mojitos and other smashed drinks are often prepared this way to give it one last, final, good mix. Build the drink in one tin, including ice, then pour it into the other tin, back the original tin, and then into the glass you're serving the drink. 

Most times you don't strain the drink when you're using this method, so top off your glass with additional ice to complete the drink, then garnish. 

Quick Tip

Once familiar with the Boston shaker, you can use it as a strainer for drinks you aren't too concerned with straining. Once you've shaken the drink, nudge the top tin the tiniest bit and pour through the crack, allowing only liquids and small pieces of ice to flow through. 

How to Use a Parisian Shaker

The Parisian, or French shaker, is a step between the Boston shaker and the Cobbler shaker. The smaller tin that is used in a Boston shaker is now a tapered and smaller piece, and it functions as a lid. You cannot roll a drink in this style of shaker, as the lid is much smaller than the base. 

It's sleeker and more stylish than the Boston shaker, but the drink-building and straining methods are the same. 

How to Use a Cobbler Shaker

Unlike the Boston or Parisian shaker, the cobbler shaker comes with a built-in strainer, making it the best for if you're short on space or looking to make cocktails on the go and don't want to bring a bunch of tools with you. It's also a three-piece shaker, unlike the two-piece shakers above. 

However, these are notorious for being sticky and difficult to use before breaking in fully. 

  1. Like the above shakers, add your cocktail ingredients and ice to your bottom tin.
  2. Cap with both the strainer tin AND the cap that goes over the strainer. Not adding that final third piece will make for a very messy cocktail-shaking experience.
  3. Give the cap a solid tap, and when shaking, hold the bottom of the bottom tin and the top of the cap to ensure the pieces stay together and no one is wearing the cocktail. 
  4. Remove the cap and strain right through the top lid. Double strain if you're concerned about the clarity of your final cocktail. 
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How to Get a Stuck Cocktail Shaker Lid Off

Everyone, and I mean everyone, who has ever used a cocktail shaker more than a few times has gotten a lid very solidly stuck. To get that lid off,  you'll need a counter or other solid surface. 

  1. Keeping the tin upright, gently but firmly tap where the tins meet against the corner of a counter edge, going in a circle until you feel the tins start to give.
  2. If they really don't move, you can break out a rubber grip similar to what you'd use to help you open a stubborn jar lid. Sometimes you'll need to put in some thorough muscle to separate the tins. 
Helpful Hack

Still can't remove the lid? Run the tin under hot water or even soak it in hot water to loosen up the seal. Take care with this method, as the metal can get hot quickly. 

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When to Use a Cocktail Shaker or Mixing Glass

Typically, the rule of thumb when it comes to a shaker vs a mixing glass has to do with the ingredients. 

  • If you're making a cocktail that's spirit-forward and contains only spirits, such as a martini, Manhattan, or old-fashioned, use a mixing glass.
  • Use a cocktail shaker when you add juices and other ingredients or drinks you would typically serve in a rocks or highball glass with ice cubes. This includes drinks like mojitos, margaritas, or daiquiris. 

If you don't have a mixing glass, don't worry. You can stir those cocktails in your tin or you can even give them a gentle roll. 

Cocktail Shaker Secrets and Tips

Now that you're the master of the shaker, there's no holding you back from making any cocktail you stumble upon. Grab that shaker by the tins and show them who's boss. It's you, you're the shaker boss!

How to Use a Cocktail Shaker to Mix Drinks Like a Pro