How to Shake a Cocktail? A Comprehensive Guide

July 13, 2023
Nic Polotnianko


Shaking a cocktail is more than just mixing ingredients; it's an art that requires knowledge, skill, and a touch of flair. The process integrates all the elements of a cocktail, chilling them, diluting them, and imparting a certain level of aeration that brings out the best in every ingredient.

The art of shaking cocktails dates back to the 19th century when the practice of mixing drinks was first popularized. At the time, bartenders would use two glasses to mix drinks together, but this evolved over time into what we know today as the cocktail shaker. This method of mixing cocktails has stood the test of time and is a key element in the bartender's arsenal.

Types of Cocktail Shakers

There are three main types of cocktail shakers that are widely used today:

Boston Shaker:

Consisting of two parts - a mixing glass and a tin, the Boston shaker is a favourite amongst professional bartenders for its versatility and ease of use.

Cobbler Shaker:

A three-piece shaker that includes a built-in strainer and a smaller cap. It's very user-friendly, making it a popular choice for home bars.

French Shaker:

Combines elements from both the Boston and Cobbler shakers, this two-piece shaker consists of a metal bottom and a metal cap, and is celebrated for its elegant design.

Shaker TypeDescription
Boston ShakerTwo-part system: a mixing glass and a tin
Cobbler ShakerThree-part system: includes a built-in strainer and a cap
French ShakerTwo-part system: metal bottom and metal cap

The Art of Shaking a Cocktail

The shaking technique can dramatically influence the final product. Here are some commonly used shaking methods:

  1. The Standard Shake: A basic, vigorous shake usually used for most cocktails. The key is to shake hard enough to integrate the ingredients, without over diluting the drink.

  2. The Hard Shake: Involves a more vigorous and extended shaking technique to add more dilution and aeration.

  3. The Whip Shake: Best for cocktails with cream or heavy ingredients, it involves a short, vigorous shake.

  4. The Dry Shake: Usually used when the cocktail includes egg whites. The ingredients are first shaken without ice (dry) to create a frothy texture, then shaken again with ice to cool the drink (this is known as double shaking).

How to Shake a Cocktail

Now that we know the tools and techniques, let's explore how to shake a cocktail:

Preparing the shaker and ingredients:

Add your ingredients to the shaker first, then ice. Fill it up to ¾ of its capacity to ensure enough space for shaking.

The correct shaking technique:

Hold the shaker with both hands (one on the top and one on the bottom) and shake vigorously. The shake should come from your shoulders, not your wrists.

The importance of shaking time:

The length of the shake affects the cocktail's temperature, dilution, and aeration. Most cocktails need to be shaken for about 10-15 seconds.

How to know when the cocktail is well-shaken:

Listen to the ice. As you shake, the ice will begin to break up. When the noise level drops, it's a good indication that your cocktail is ready to be strained and served.

Shaking a cocktail is an essential part of the art of cocktail making. It's more than just mixing ingredients; it's about the balance between the strength of the shake, the time, and the choice of shaker. Whether you're a seasoned bartender or a cocktail enthusiast, mastering the shake will undoubtedly take your cocktails to the next level.

Common Mistakes When Shaking a Cocktail

It's easy to get the cocktail shaking process wrong if you're not aware of a few common mistakes:

  1. Over shaking or under shaking: Shaking a cocktail for too long can over dilute it, while under shaking can leave the ingredients poorly mixed and the drink not chilled enough. Aim for the 10-15 second sweet spot.

  2. Incorrect ice usage: Ice not only chills the drink but also dilutes it and adds necessary aeration. Using too much or too little can affect the balance of your cocktail.

  3. Not sealing the shaker properly: This can lead to messy accidents. Ensure the two parts of the shaker are securely fitted before shaking.

Advanced Shaking Techniques

Once you've mastered the basics, you can experiment with these advanced techniques:

Double shaking:

This involves shaking the ingredients twice - first without ice (dry shake), then with ice. It's especially useful when using egg whites in your cocktail.

Shaking with egg whites:

Egg whites need a good shake to create a frothy texture. A dry shake before adding ice is a common practice.

Shaking with cream:

Cream-based cocktails benefit from a short, vigorous shake (whip shake) to fully integrate the cream with the other ingredients.

Shaken cocktails

You can also take a look at the best cocktails, created using the shake technique:


The Aviation cocktail is a well-balanced mix of sweet, sour, and floral flavors. The gin provides a strong, juniper-forward base, while the maraschino liqueur adds a touch of sweetness. The lemon juice brings a bright, zesty acidity, and the crème de violette imparts a delicate floral note.


The Margarita is a well-balanced cocktail with a bright, citrusy flavor. It is both sweet and sour, with the tanginess of lime juice complementing the sweetness of the orange liqueur. The tequila adds a strong, earthy backbone, while the salt rim enhances the overall taste and adds a savory touch.

Whiskey Sour

The Whiskey Sour is a well-balanced cocktail with a tangy, sour taste from the lemon juice, a subtle sweetness from the simple syrup, and a rich, warming sensation from the whiskey. The egg white adds a smooth, creamy texture.

Bloody Mary

The Bloody Mary is a savory, spicy, and tangy cocktail with a strong tomato flavor. The vodka adds a subtle kick, while the Worcestershire and hot sauce provide a complex depth of flavor. The lemon juice adds a touch of acidity, and the celery salt and black pepper give it a slight earthiness.


Mastering the art of shaking cocktails is not just about blending ingredients; it's about understanding how each shake affects the final product. It requires attention to detail, from the type of shaker and the amount of ice to the strength and duration of your shake.

Shaking a cocktail is both science and art. It's a dance of balance and rhythm, a test of strength and precision. And like any dance, it needs practice. Don't be afraid to make mistakes; every spill, every over-shaken or under-shaken drink, is a step towards perfection.

Remember the key points: the right shaker, the correct technique, the perfect shake time, and careful attention to the sound of your cocktail. Then, experiment. Find your shake. Make it your signature. And above all, enjoy the process.

Shake, serve, and enjoy the art of the cocktail!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you shake cocktails at once?

If you're using a large enough shaker, you can mix two cocktails at once. Ensure that you double your ingredients and the ice to keep the proportions correct.

How do you stir a cocktail in a shaker?

Place the ingredients and ice in the shaker and use a long spoon to stir the mixture gently. This method is preferred for cocktails where aeration and dilution from shaking aren't needed.

Does how you shake a cocktail matter?

Yes, the way you shake a cocktail affects the texture, temperature, dilution, and overall taste of the drink.

Do you shake a cocktail gently?

This depends on the cocktail and the desired outcome. Some cocktails require a gentle shake, while others need a more vigorous shake.


Find the cocktail you'd love!

If you want to drink something - you can use our AI-augmented search to find the best cocktail for you!
Completely free!