What Are The Different Types of Cocktail Shakers?

James Bond’s "shaken, not stirred" reference is synonymous with the history of cocktail shakers. Having been greatly influenced by the golden years of the cocktail himself, author Ian Fleming released his first Bond adventure during the re-emergence of the 5 O’clock cocktail hour, so characteristic of high society during the 1950s. For both Fleming and the world over, the cocktail shaker had become a symbol of sophistication and success. Pushed to the side by the growing obsession of electrical gadgetry in the 1960s, the cocktail shaker soon slumped into remission before rising to centre stage in what has been affectionately termed as the “cocktail renaissance” of the 1990s, triggered by the 1988 American film, “Cocktail,” no less.
The sleek, cocktail shaker of today emerged on the scene in the 19th century purely by chance. An innkeeper, searching for a shortcut, discovered it was much easier to mix a drink by using a slightly larger glass over the top of a smaller one. A quick shake not only mixed the beverage, he also found he could entertain patrons with a flashy show of his barkeep wiles. Shortly thereafter, the cocktail shaker became a required accessory in the mixing of beverages. Hundreds of patented designs flooded the market as bar staff experimented to find the ideal device to deliver the cocktail experience.

In the 1840s, a two-pieced silver design, commonly called a French Shaker, was Britain’s most popular mixer. The French Shaker’s simple design meant an additional strainer was often required, but other than that, the device was highly sort after for its simplicity. So much so that the New York silver-plate manufacturer, Roger’s Smith & Co, released a similar shaker called a “Parisian” in 1872. It was so well appreciated that even in the 1910s, the German metal-ware company, WMF, continued producing it. Interestingly, it is a style still favoured by European bar staff today.

American bartenders on the other hand, preferred a much different style than that of their British friends. For many years they favoured a two-piece device made of ornate glass and metal that has since become known as the Boston Shaker. The name “Boston Shaker” first appeared in Britain in the 1920s and from this point on was applied to all two-piece, glass and metal mixers. It is interesting to note that Harrods, the famous London department store, showcased two, silver-plated Boston Shakers in their 1908 catalogue. These cocktail shakers were advertised as being essential for the mixing of the American-style drinks that were fashionable at the time.

As the popularity of the cocktail shaker increased, designs continued to be modified in the quest for the perfect mixer. In 1884, E. J. Hauck developed the French Shaker further by building a strainer into the top, which subsequently produced a three-pieced product called the Combination Shaker. In 1883, W. H. Murphy made the device even easier to use by fitting a spring-loaded strainer directly into the base container. Cleverly, the lid for the Combination Shaker doubled as a measuring aid. The Combination Shaker has been the most accepted variation of shaker since the 1920s and is still used throughout the world.

The pinnacle of the cocktail shaker's popularity coincides with the ending of the American Prohibition. From that point on, the shaker became a familiar feature on the silver screen and in glossy magazine spreads, and was a common accessory found in both commercial and domestic bars. The cocktail shaker in all its simplicity grew to become a symbol of sophistication and fun times, and has continued to be a highly valued accessory used in the pursuit of the ideal cocktail.

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Bartender's top tip

Stirring cocktails instead of shaking is better for cocktails with delicate ingredients that need to be mixed gently for the perfect taste.

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