June 6, 2020

How to Shake Your Cocktails Perfectly Everytime

If you want to make tasty drinks at home your're going to need to know how to shake them. Here is your at-home guide with everything you need to know.

Measuring ingredients for cocktails

Cocktail recipes often end with something like "now shake, and serve", but what does that really mean?

It seems like one of those terms that everybody just assumes you know how to do and then the first time you ever go to do it you feel unsure of yourself.

Well, here's everything you need to know about shaking drinks!

cocktail syrup for a shaken drink

Why do you shake cocktails?

When you shake a cocktail it's doing a few things all at once:

  • It chills and mixes all the ingredients
  • the drink gets slightly diluted
  • tiny air bubbles are added making it seem "lighter"

Or, in the case of cocktails with egg whites you are whipping the whites into a velvety foam.

So how do you get a drink that is the right temperature with a bit of dilution and has a smooth velvety texture on the first sip?

pouring the ingredients into a boston shaker

The most important shaking tip...

Making a great shaken drink really isn't hard, and the biggest thing you need to remember is this...


Shake your drinks hard for 12 seconds. That is the ideal time to get the perfect amount of chill, dilution, and air in your final cocktail.

Overall the process is fairly forgiving. Add ice, shake hard for 10-15 seconds and you should have a pretty damn good drink so don't stress about it.

There are lots of different styles of cocktail shakers but I prefer the Boston style. It's not the coolest looking but it's easy to clean, use, and open after shaking.

Closing a cocktail shaker

How to shake a cocktail (7 steps)

1. Add the ingredients to your small shaker tin in order from least to most expensive. That way if you screw the drink up you don't waste the pricey stuff... we've all done it.

2. Add to the large tin, pour the drink over the ice and set the small tin in the large one.

3. Let the small tin rest so one of it's sides is in line with the large tin and give a firm whack to the top of the small tin to secure it.

4. Use 2 hands to vigorously shake for 12 seconds.

girl shaking a cocktail

5. Set the shaker on the counter with the big tin on bottom and the edge where the two tins are flush pointing towards you.

6. Now hit the top of the large tin at one of the sides (at 9 or 3 O'clock) with the heel of your hand so the tins separate. This can be frustrating sometimes and you might need to hit it harder than you think.

7. Then strain the drink into the final glass.

NOTE: you can shake two cocktails at once. Just be sure to add more ice and know that the tins can sometimes be harder to separate.

opening the cocktail shaker

What ice to use

In a perfect world you would use one 2 inch cube and 3 smaller cubes for every drink.

Small cubes chill and dilute faster while big cubes whip in more air so having the combination of both is ideal.

But I know that isn't what most people have at home.

If you use the 2 inch rounded cubes from cube trays or the ice from your freezer they will still work fine! Use 5 standard "cube tray" sized cubes per cocktail when shaking.

If you want to be an over achiever and shake with some big cube you can grab some molds here on Amazon.

double straining a cocktail

Strain and serve

Once you have your shaker open place the strainer over the tin and pour into the final glass.

Strainers made specifically for cocktail shakers are called Hawthorne style strainers. They fit nicely on the tin and have a small spring that holds back the ice chunks from falling into the glass.

Some drinks are served with a double strain.

Double Straining: The cocktail is poured out of the shaker using a Hawthorne strainer to hold back the ice, and a fine mesh strainer over the drink to get the small little chips (pictured above).

This is often done when serving drinks "up" in a cocktail glass when you want a nice smooth texture without any ice chips.

Rum, lime and sugar make the perfect daiquiri

Put it to the test!

Make one of the best shaken cocktails of all time, the classic Daiquiri

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shaking cocktails pin

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