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Correct way to use a Cocktail Shaker

A martini shaker, also known as a cocktail shaker, is the most efficient way to mix and chill the ingredients of a martini, or of any other cocktail. Here are some tips for making the most of your shaker.

Add ingredients in the right order

Unless a drink requires muddling, the ice goes into the shaker first. Adding ice when there is already liquid in the shaker results in splashing. Putting the ice in first also speeds up the chilling process. However, with drinks like mojitos, which require muddling, muddle first, then add ice.

After the ice, start with the most alcoholic ingredients, and end with the heaviest ingredients. Because high alcohol content makes liquids tend to rise, this will mean that the ingredients are already starting to mix, even before you start shaking.

Close shaker securely

There are few things more embarrassing than having a carefully-measured shaker of drinks spill everywhere as soon as you start shaking. There are shakers with screw caps, that minimize this risk, but most shakers stay closed because the pieces fit together snugly. It’s a good idea to make sure they fit snugly enough before you start shaking.

With a three-piece, or Cobbler shaker, try to lift the shaker by the cap. If the cap stays on, it’s properly closed. If not, give it another tap with the flat of your hand. Remember, both the upper part of the shaker and the small cap at the top need to be on properly.

If you have a two-piece, or Boston shaker, the same technique works. When you put the pieces together, you should feel a small “whoosh” as they form an airtight seal. If the upper part slips when you (carefully) try to lift it, shift the parts around until you get a good seal.

Shake in a seesaw motion

You’ve probably seen a lot of people pick up a cocktail shaker and bounce it up and down like a sledgehammer. Some people even throw it over their shoulder. This may look cool, but it doesn’t give you much control, and it’s a lot more effort than necessary.

Instead, place one hand on the top of the shaker and one hand on the bottom, and just rock it back and forth in a seesaw motion. That mixes up the contents just as well, and with your hands on either side of the shaker, it’s a lot less likely the pieces will come apart.

Wait until the outside of the shaker is cold

One of the first questions people have about using a shaker is, “How do I know when it’s done?” There’s no set “shake time.” How long you need to shake a cocktail depends on a lot of factors: everything from the amount of liquid in the shaker to the temperature of the room.

But there’s a very easy way to tell: when the drink is cold enough, the shaker will be cold to the touch, and beads of water will start to form on the metal or glass. (With a plastic shaker, unfortunately, you may be stuck with trial and error.)

Open carefully

Getting the drink back out of the cocktail shaker can be the hardest part of the mixing process. You will have to undo the seal you took so much trouble perfecting; and now that the metal is cold, the seal will be even tighter. As the metal warms up a little, it will get easier to get the pieces apart, and that shouldn’t take long enough to affect the quality of the drink.

With a three-piece shaker, the trick is to get the lid off without also removing the upper portion of the shaker. To do this, twist the cap before pulling on it. If it won’t come off, or if your hand keeps slipping, use a rubber dish-washing glove or other grippy item. There are devices made for exactly this purpose, which are basically just a small, circular sheet of rubber or silicone.

With a two-piece shaker, the pull a little to one side instead of straight up. If that doesn’t work, tap the bottom of the shaker very gently on a hard surface. But be very careful hitting the shaker with anything but your hands. Broken glass does not make for a pleasant evening.

Strain into glasses

Three-piece shakers have a strainer built in; once you have the cap off, all you need to do is pour your drink into a (chilled) glass, and you’re done. But if you’re using a two-piece shaker, you’ll have to get a strainer to put over the top of the lower portion of the shaker. For clarifying drinks that contain very fine solids, like orange juice pulp, it might also be good to get a tea strainer, or even a piece of cheesecloth or fine mesh for extra filtration power.

Don’t forget to empty and rinse the shaker

Any liquid left behind with the ice in the shaker will be diluted and unpleasant within about fifteen minutes, so pour out everything into a glass or container of some kind, even if you don’t mean to drink it. Unless you’re going to make another batch immediately, toss out the ice as well, and rinse the shaker.

It’s best to have fresh ice for every batch of cocktails, and if you don’t rinse a three-piece shaker out promptly, drink residue may the pieces nearly impossible to separate later.