How to Shake a Cocktail
Mastering your shaking technique can be a great way to inject a bit of theatre into your cocktail making – guaranteed to wow your customers and improve the taste and presentation of your cocktails. Discover our guide to cocktail shaking and get exclusive tips to perfect your technique from expert bartenders James Fowler, Charles Ainsbury, and Ryu Fujii.
Why is Cocktail Shaking Important?
So, why is it so important to shake a cocktail? There are three reasons:
- Chilling your liquid
- Combining your ingredients
- Aerating the mixture
While chilling and combining can be achieved through stirring, aerating a mixture can only happen when a liquid is shaken.
Aeration, or working air into ingredients, gives cocktails a more velvety, consistent texture. It can also reduce bitterness in ingredients and increase sweetness.
Cocktail Shaking Techniques
Shaking cocktails is the most efficient way to chill and dilute a cocktail at the same time. There are five ways to do this effectively:
- The Standard Shake
- The Double Shake
- The Dry Shake
- The Reverse Dry Shake
- The Hard Shake
It's time to hear from the experts as they explain how to perfect these cocktail shaking techniques.
The Standard Shake
The standard shaking technique is most often used for drinks where juices, cream, fruits, syrups, or other heavy ingredients need to be bonded to the spirit. The easiest shake to master, all you have to do is the following:
- Add ingredients to cocktail shaker
- Fill shaker with ice
- Secure lid and hold shaker in both hands before vigorously shaking in a horizontal motion over your shoulder
- Shake for a slow count of ten
- Strain cocktail into a chilled glass
Top Tip - You can over shake a drink, so be careful! This is especially true with regular bar ice. Try to use larger ice cubes because you can eventually feel the point at which you’ve broken the ice down and are ready to strain. This is seldom over 15 seconds.
Ready to perfect your standard shake? Watch the step-by-step video below:
The Double Shake
As explained by Charles Ainsbury
The double shake is a simple technique to save time. You shake and strain two cocktails at once with a shaker in each hand.
It may seem simple enough, but to master it, you must remember that not all shaken cocktails work in the same way!
For example, a Daiquiri needs plenty of ice and a hefty dose of elbow grease, as it's best served very cold. Whereas a Tom Collins needs a few solid flicks of the wrist - just to combine and chill before its diluted with soda water, so there’s no need for a vigorous shake.
To perform an effective double shake, use your dominant hand for a cocktail that is being served straight up. With your non-dominant hand, shake a cocktail that will be served on the rocks. This will help maintain proper texture and level of dilution in each drink.
Top Tip – Remember to take into consideration every cocktail you’ll be making and how it differs from the next as all will need a different shake style - then decide what hand to use. Remember that once you add ice, the timer is on!
The Dry Shake and The Reverse Dry Shake
As explained by James Fowler
A “dry shake” refers to shaking ingredients in a cocktail shaker without ice. Any recipe that contains egg requires a dry shake. This ensures that the egg white combines with the other ingredients, and results in a nice, frothy texture. To get this outcome, a vigorous dry shake, for at least 30 seconds, is required.
After dry shaking, ice is added, and the mixture is shaken for a second time before being strained and served.
The reverse dry shake is the same technique but in reverse. All ingredients except the egg white are added to a shaker with ice, then strained to remove the ice and the egg white is added before the second shake, resulting in a more consistent foamy texture. Classic cocktails such as the Whiskey Sour and the Ramos Gin Fizz are both made using this technique.
Top Tip - It’s best to fine strain the liquid to remove any ice shards before the second dry shake.
The Hard Shake
As explained by Ryu Fujii
The “hard shake” method was invented by legendary bartender, Kazuo Ueda. Somewhat paradoxically, the hard shake is, in fact, quite gentle – intended to force the ice around the cocktail shaker rather than back and forth from end to end, allowing for greater control of aeration and dilution.
Top Tip - The size of the shaker is important in this technique and a three-piece shaker is preferable. Increasing the amount of air helps to take the edge off the alcohol, with the end result being a smoother finish.
Which Cocktails Should Be Shaken?
An easy way to determine if a cocktail needs to be shaken is if it contains fresh ingredients. Things like egg white, citrus juice, or cream need to be shaken as this causes aeration – allowing natural flavors into the cocktail.
Depending on whether you are using a white or brown spirit will determine how you shake it. For white spirits, it is recommended to:
- Use a strong shaking style
- Not smash the ice against the bottom of the shaker
- Use a snap of your wrist and arm stroke to let the ice scrape against the side of the shaker
For brown spirits, you should:
- Snap your wrist but at a wider angle
- Double strain any remaining ice to prevent overly acidic tastes
Cocktail Shakers You Need to Know
There are two common types of cocktail shakers:
- The two-piece Boston Shaker
- The three-piece Cobbler.
A Boston Shaker has a greater surface area which allows for better aeration. However, it takes longer for the liquid to chill, because of this.
The Cobbler is more compact which allows for a faster chilling time but has less aeration. This can be combatted by using a more energetic shaking technique.
Cocktails to Make with a Shaker
Test out your shaking techniques with cocktails that will never fail to impress your guests.
Remember to consider what ice you are using when creating your serves. A general rule of thumb is that larger, hand-cut ice cubes are better suited for drinks where dilution and aeration aren’t a priority.
Smaller cubes increase aeration but can risk over-dilution if the drink is shaken for too long – a word of warning!
Antigua Spring Fling
- 1.5 oz. Zacapa 23 Rum
- 0.5 oz.Chamomile syrup
- 0.75 oz. Lemon juice
- 0.25 oz. Elderflower liqueur
- Fresh Chamomile flowers
Recipe for Chamomile Syrup:
- In a medium saucepan, add sugar and water and cook over medium heat until the sugar completely dissolves.
- Add chamomile, remove from heat and let steep while the syrup cools to room temperature (about 15 minutes).
- Strain through a fine mesh strainer and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- Combine Zacapa Rum, chamomile syrup, elderflower, and lemon juice in a shaker.
- Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.
- Garnish with flowers.
Alcohol Content: 0.7 fl. oz. of alcohol.
- 0.75 oz. Smirnoff No.21 Vodka
- 1.5 oz. Tanqueray London Dry Gin
- 0.5 oz. White Vermouth
- Shake with large ice chunks halting when you reach the desired chill.
- Check for the correct solution, strain liquid into a frozen martini glass.
- Garnish with a lemon twist.
Alcohol Content: 1.1 fl. oz. of alcohol.
Tea Master Aviation
- 2 oz. Tanqueray London Dry Gin
- 0.5 oz. Maraschino liqueur
- 0.25 oz. Green tea cordial*
- 0.5 oz. Yuzu juice
- 0.5 oz.Lime juice
- 1 part granulated sugar to 1 part strongly steeped green tea
- Add all ingredients to a three-piece shaker.
- Fill the shaker 70% of the way with ice. Shake firmly and strain into a cocktail glass.
- Garnish with Absinthe spray.
Alcohol Content: 1.0 fl. oz. of alcohol.
- Shaking is important for aerating a mixture.
- There are five different methods for shaking: the Standard Shake, the Double Shake, the Dry Shake, the Reverse Dry Shake, and the Hard Shake
- There are two common types of cocktail shaker - the two-piece Boston Shaker and the three-piece Cobbler.
- White spirits need a strong shaking style, whereas brown spirits need to be double strained to prevent excess acidity.
- Smaller ice cubes increase aeration but can risk over-dilution.
Want access to exclusive content to improve your cocktail-making techniques? Sign up to Diageo Bar Academy today for unlimited access to masterclasses, e-learning, quizzes, downloadable resources, and much more.