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How to use a Cocktail Shaker: A Beginner’s Guide


If you’re just getting started with making cocktails at home, let me show you how to use a cocktail shaker! It’s an essential bar tool to help you shake up delicious drink recipes with ease. And it’s super easy to use. There are a few different types of shakers but I’m going to focus on the common one used at home, the cobbler shaker.

Woman holding up a silver cocktail shaker.
Learning how to use a drink shaker is key to creating bar-worthy cocktails at home!

How to use a cocktail shaker is the only skill you need to know for making easy cocktails at home. 

I share and create cocktail recipes that are low-stress and easy to followThey’re perfect for people who want to enjoy mixed drinks at home and want to get the most out of what’s already on their home bar without complicated techniques.

Whether you’re just making cocktails for yourself or sharing them with a crowd, by the end of this guide, you’re going to be shaking it like a pro!

What is a Cocktail Shaker?

A cocktail shaker is an essential bar tool used to mix and chill ingredients while adding a bit of air to a drink to create a smooth, well-balanced cocktail. It’s a must-have tool for bartenders and anyone who fancies a good drink. 

There are different types of shakers available in the market, but for beginner cocktail-making at homeI recommend using a cobbler shaker. It’s the easiest for home use, and it comes with a built-in cocktail strainer and a tight-fitting lid that is perfect for shaking and straining cocktails (or mocktails) in one go. 

Related: Essential Glassware for Drinks

They’re usually made from stainless steel and can look very plain and basic or super decorative. They also come in a range of sizes from mini, which is perfect for making just one drink to larger sizes for mixing drinks for a crowd.

I think the cobbler shaker is the best cocktail shaker but it does have a few downsides. The lid can be hard to remove as the steel freezes a little when shaken.

The built-in cocktail strainer is also not very fine so chunks can easily get into cocktails (like, if you were making a Strawberry Whiskey Sour). I don’t really mind this but if you do, you may want to look at another type of cocktail shaker. 

Keep on reading to learn how to use a three-piece cocktail shaker at home!

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How to use a Cobbler Shaker

A Cobbler shaker consists of three main components: the cap, strainer, and tumbler

Woman adding St Germain to a cocktail shaker.
It’s really easy to learn how to use a cobble shaker for delicious cocktails!

Step 1: Fill the tumbler

Add all the cocktail ingredients to the tumbler. Make sure you measure them precisely according to the recipe. 

Note: This is important when starting out so that you can learn what the experts think a balanced cocktail is. HOWEVER, you should let your own flavor preferences shine through and dictate how you make future cocktails.

Woman adding ice to a cocktail shaker.

Step 2: Add ice

Always add ice cubes last to prevent dilution from happening too quickly. Fill the tumbler with cracked or cubed ice, leaving enough space for the ingredients to move freely. I’ve even seen professionals use a large ice cube in the shaker to prevent dilution during shaking even more.

Woman picking up a silver cocktail shaker.

Step 3: Cap the shaker

Place the cap on top of the tumbler. Make sure it fits snugly.

Woman shaking a silver cocktail shaker.

Step 4: Shake it

Hold onto the cap and the tumbler securely and shake it firmly and consistently. The cap is usually snug fitting enough to stay on during the shaking but I like to keep my index finger over it just in case. Cleaning up a mess is the last thing I want to do when I’m making cocktails. 

Use a controlled back-and-forth motion, tilting your wrist at a slight angle. Give the cocktail a good shake for about 10-15 seconds or until the shaker is frosted over.

Woman taking the cap off a cocktail shaker next to a champagne flute.
Woman straining a drink into a champagne glass.

Step 5: Strain and serve

Carefully remove the cap and use the integrated strainer to strain the cocktail into a chilled serving glass (through the strainer) to remove any ice or pulp. 

Add garnish to make it look fancy, and there you have it – your perfectly mixed cocktail!


Sometimes it can be tough to remove the top of the cocktail shaker after shaking. If you find that happens, give the shaker a firm tap with the heel of your hand.

If the strainer cap gets stuck, try twisting it a few times.

Different types of cocktail shakers

A Boston Shaker is a 2 piece shaker that doesn’t have a built-in strainer. Instead, you would need to use a Hawthorne strainer or julep strainer along with it. It’s a bit harder to learn to use which is why I prefer to use the three-piece shaker shaker. 

A French Shaker (sometimes called a Parisian shaker) is a two-piece shaker that is a cross between a cobbler and a Boston cocktail shaker. It’s shaped like a cobbler shaker but doesn’t have a strainer either so you may need to use a separate strainer (like a fine mesh strainer). The lid seems to come off a little bit easier than a cobbler shaker. 

When to Use a Cocktail Shaker

As a general rule, any cocktail that calls for fruit juice, cream, or egg whites should be shaken in a cobbler cocktail shaker to create a smooth, well-balanced drink.

While some cocktails are meant to be assembled directly in the glass, others require a shaker to achieve the perfect balance of flavors. 

Here are a few examples of when you should use a cocktail shaker:


Margaritas are made with tequila, lime juice, and orange liqueur. By shaking the ingredients together with ice, you can create a frothy, refreshing drink that’s perfect for summer.


Martinis are made with gin or vodka and vermouth. But you can also make variations with fruity flavors (like a Grapefruit Martini), which is what I prefer. Shaking the ingredients in a shaker not only ensures the drink is well mixed, but it also adds air bubbles to create a smooth mouthfeel.


Daiquiris are made from rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. Shaking the ingredients together adds frothiness to the drink, making it more refreshing and a perfect summertime cocktail.

Egg White Cocktails

Egg-white cocktails like a classic Whiskey Sour or a Pisco Sour, require heavy shaking to create the perfect foamy head. A vigorous shake of ingredients without ice first (called a dry shake), before adding ice, creates superior fluffiness in the egg whites and produces a velvety texture.

Keep in mind you don’t have to use egg whites in cocktails if that sounds too overwhelming.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Do you always put ice in a cocktail shaker last?

Yes, ice is a crucial ingredient while making cocktails. You add it last before you shake the cocktail. Adding the ice last lets it cools down the drink ingredients while diluting it the least amount.

Do you use crushed or cubed ice in the cocktail shaker?

It depends on the recipe and personal preferences. Cubed ice is ideal for a longer shake, while crushed ice is perfect for a shorter and colder shake. Note that different types of ice dilute the drink at varying rates, so choose accordingly. In any case try to use fresh ice for the best, clean flavor.

What is the trick to separating a cocktail shaker?

Sometimes during the shaking of a cocktail, the lid can get really tight on the shaker. The trick to quickly and safely separate a cocktail shaker from the lid is to hold onto it tightly with one hand and slap the top lid with the palm of the other hand. This breaks the vacuum seal, making it easy to separate the shaker without spillage.

What is the difference between a cobbler shaker and a Boston shaker?

The main difference between a cobbler shaker and a Boston shaker is the number of components. Cobbler shakers have three components (cap, strainer, and tumbler) built into one piece, while Boston shakers have two separate pieces – a large metal tin, and a slightly smaller mixing glass (or uou can use a pint glass for the bottom part. Boston shakers require an external strainer, called a Hawthorne strainer, but they offer more flexibility and are commonly used by professional bartenders. Cobbler shakers are easy to use and perfect for beginners.

Alternatives to a Cocktail Shaker

If you don’t have a cocktail shaker on hand, no worries! There are a few alternatives you can use to mix up delicious drinks. Here are some of the most popular alternatives:

Mason Jars

If you have a mason jar lying around, you can use it as a makeshift shaker. Add all your ingredients and ice to the jar, screw on the lid, and shake vigorously. Then strain the cocktail into a glass using a fine-mesh strainer to remove any ice chunks or pulp.

Protein Shaker

A protein shaker with a metal ball can be a good alternative to a cocktail shaker. Simply add your ingredients, add ice, and shake it as you would with a regular cocktail shaker. It’s a low-key way to mix drinks. 


If you’re making frozen cocktails, a blender can come in handy. Blend all your ingredients and ice until smooth, then pour into a glass. You can also use a blender to create blended versions of classic cocktails like a frozen Mango Strawberry Daiquiri.

While these alternatives aren’t perfect substitutes for a cocktail shaker, they can get the job done in a pinch. So, don’t let the lack of a cocktail shaker stop you from enjoying a good drink at home!

The Best Shakers

If you’re looking for a nice-looking, decently-made cocktail shaker that you can use over and over again, I like the Oxo Cocktail Shaker for everyday use. It’s reasonably priced and easy to care for.

For making more drinks at a time, I like the Elevated Craft shaker. Not only is it large enough so you can mix 6 drinks at once, but the top cap also is a measuring cup. This shaker is full of great features and is a little more pricey. But if you are looking for something that you will get tons of use out of, this is fantastic for a large cocktail shaker perfect for making drinks for a crowd!

Now that you know how to use a cocktail shaker, you’re well on your way to becoming a cocktail-making superstar! 

With a little practice and creativity, you can easily create a wide variety of delicious cocktails that will impress your guests. So, go out there, experiment with new cocktail recipes, and most importantly, have fun! 

You can find more of my essential bar tool recommendations here!

New to Making Drinks at Home?

Mixing drinks doesn’t need to be overwhelming! Check out these posts that will help you get started making delicious cocktail and mocktail recipes without needing tons of ingredients or expert-level bartending skills.

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