There are a lot of different ways to make cocktails and a lot of tools that will make your cocktail mixing experience easier, make the cocktails taste better or are just nice to have. Today I want to begin writing about The Right Tools. A new series about some of the tools I use to make my cocktails. And I want to explain what they are good for and if you really need them.
When I started making cocktails on my own, I remember it was pretty overwhelming to acquire the basic tools and ingredients. Without a lot of research there is usually quite some trial and error involved. And so I ended up with things I wish I never bought and some I wished I bought sooner.
Probably the most iconic tool is the cocktail shaker and of course every beginning mixologist needs one. But just try searching for cocktail shaker on the internet and you will find hundreds of different shakers. So how do you know if a shaker is any good?
Different Kinds Of Shakers
A good cocktail shaker is a must have. Get yourself one and you possess a powerful tool to make at least half of all cocktails in existence. However, it is also the most expensive item to get in the beginning. So if you are just starting out in your mixology adventures, you probably can't afford a huge selection of these.
There are 3 basic kinds of cocktail shakers and each has some advantages and disadvantages. Knowing them in advance will help you to decide which one is right for you.
Surely the most famous type of shaker, it consists of three parts. Using the shaker is simple since all the parts easily fit together and come apart again. You can shake for as long as you want and won't have any problem opening the shaker.
I recommend this type when beginning, since there is a huge selection of them and they are very easy to use. Make sure that when you get a cobbler shaker it is made out of metal and not too light. A sturdy one will take a lot of abuse and probably be around for a very long time. Avoid anything made out of glass.
The ease of use does, however, have some slight disadvantages. Usually cobbler shakers are small, which means they can't hold much liquid, limiting the number of cocktails made in one shaker. Also I wouldn't recommend preparing anything with mashed fruit or herbs in such a shaker, as the large pieces may block the sieve thus making it difficult to strain the cocktail.
Personally I use the above pictured Baron Yukiwa, which is nice and heavy.
Most likely the shaker of choice in most European or American bars, the boston shaker is often used by professional bartenders. It consists of a metal tin and a smaller glass.
To prepare a cocktail you start by pouring the liquids into the glass part. After that, fill the metal part with ice and flip it on top of the glass, giving it a tap afterwards which will seal both halves together. Shake thoroughly, then put the shaker down with the metal part at the bottom.
The, sometimes, tricky bit is separating both halves. When sealing the shaker, a slight vacuum is formed, which prevents the liquid inside to spill out. To open a boston shaker easily, you have to break that vacuum. Usually it is more than enough to twist the glass. If not, try tapping the tin lightly from the side. As soon as air gets into the shaker it comes off easily.
Finally, strain the shaken cocktail by using a cocktail strainer, a topic I intend to cover later. Due to how the usual cocktail strainer is built you can adjust the flow of your cocktail, thus filtering out little bits, or letting through more liquid when using fresh fruit.
Once you get the hang of it, it is easy and fast. Also, boston shakers are often cheap. Sadly, not as durable as the cobbler shaker, since dropping the glass part will obviously break it.
If you get one, make sure to get a solid tin that has a good fit for the glasses. Also replacement glasses should be easy to acquire and not that expensive.
French Style Shaker
The French style shaker is a mix between the above two kinds. It consists of two parts both made from metal. Just like the Boston shaker you have to use some kind of strainer to strain your cocktail.
This kind isn't as famous as the other two, but it combines the durability and ease of use of the cobbler shaker with the speed of the boston shaker. The amount of liquids this type of shaker can hold isn't as small as the cobbler shaker, not as large as the boston, but somewhere in-between.
These shakers tend to be a bit on the more expensive side, because they are not as common. If you can find a nice sturdy one, for a good price, then this can be a great investment in the beginning. But keep in mind that you will need a strainer too, which will cost a bit extra.
Don't Buy Cheap
When I started mixing cocktails I bought a horrible cocktail shaker. It was a three-piece shaker and the bottom part was made out of glass, while the other parts were made from plastic. The top was sealed with an awful rubber ring. It was cheap, but that was it. Needless to say there was no fun involved in using this thing. It leaked, it didn't look good and it was a challenge to produce something good.
I soon decided to get a Boston Shaker. The glass was sturdy, but the metal tin was very thin and wasn't crafted very well. When it inevitably fell down for the first time, it immediately got damaged and started leaking fluids at the bottom of the tin.
Being fed up with cheap shakers, I bought a more expensive Carl Mertens Boston Shaker, which was pictured earlier. It is really sturdy and I'm still using it after more than 8 years.
If you want to avoid the mistakes I made, then get a good solid shaker right at the beginning, even if it is more expensive. It will last longer and you will have more fun using it. This will save you money in the long run.
Having a nice shaker is pretty important, but the selection is huge, so I'm sure there should be the right cocktail shaker for everybody out there. Get something you like. It's a tool you have to work with a lot and mixing cocktails should be fun. Having a cool shaker goes a long way in that regard.
In the next part of this series I will talk about mixing glasses, the second important tool used for combining ingredients to make cocktails. Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to get informed about new content right away.
Title image via picjumbo.