Across America, ornate, decorative cocktail shakers dot the shelves of people who want to give off the appearance of drinking. Around here, however, we actually drink. That means foregoing cheap or purely decorative shakers for ones that are built to perform for long nights—and the long haul.
IF YOU'RE AN OCCASIONAL COCKTAIL DRINKER…
The most common shaker is the three-piece Cobbler, which is composed of a metal base and a lid that has a cap over a built-in strainer. It's great for the home bartender who only mixes the occasional cocktail because its construction makes it easy to use—just shake, twist the cap and pour. On the flip side, it isn't good for making a variety of drinks for a crowd because it takes time to rinse out each part between cocktails.
Another knock against the Cobbler is the ubiquity of poorly crafted versions. The cheap ones employ thin stainless steel that warps and eventually becomes impossible to open or keep closed. If opting for this style of shaker, invest in a heavy gauge Japanese model available at Cocktail Kingdom. They come in a variety of sizes and finishes, and there's even a gold version (pictured, center).
IF YOU'RE A NO-FUSS COCKTAIL ENTHUSIAST…
The workhorse (translation—the cheapest and least elegant) is the Boston shaker (pictured far right). It's the type bartenders use most often during service and the kind to have at home if you regularly serve cocktails to guests. This two-part shaker consists of a large stainless steel tin and a second, smaller piece—usually a pint glass, though it's not uncommon to see this component in stainless steel as well.
Be forewarned: Opening the Boston can be tricky. The steel contracts slightly when shaking with ice, creating a tight vacuum seal. Sharply smacking where the shaker's two halves meet with your palm will usually break the seal and open the unit. Give it a little practice before struggling like an idiot to open the shaker in front of friends.
IF MAKING COCKTAILS IS YOUR JOB—OR YOU WISHED IT WAS…
The shaker I use at home, and the one I've chosen for my bar, is called a Parisian. It's essentially a Boston shaker, but done in the Art Deco style of Paris in the 1920s. The Parisian is for the heavy drinking aesthete. (In short, it's heavy duty and gorgeous.) They're still being made in stainless steel—WMF, a German company, makes the best—but I scour online auctions and estate sales for vintage silver, which carries a better patina. It's well worth the effort; I couldn't imagine making a drink without it.
Photo by David L. Reamer