A cocktail shaker is a device used to mix beverages (usually alcoholic) by shaking. When ice is put in the shaker this allows for a quicker cooling of the drink before serving.
A shaken cocktail is made by putting the desired ingredients (typically fruit juices, syrups, liqueurs and ice cubes) in the cocktail shaker. Then it is shaken vigorously for around 5 to 10 seconds, depending upon the mixability of the ingredients and desired temperature.
There are at least three varieties of cocktail shakers:
The Boston Shaker: A two-piece shaker consisting of a 28 oz metal bottom and traditionally a 16 oz glass or plastic mixing glass. The mixing container and bottom are inserted into each other for shaking or used separately for stirring or muddling. A separate strainer, such as a Hawthorne or Julep strainer, are required for this type shaker if crushed ice is used. Without such a strainer, some bartenders may instead strain by narrowly separating the two pieces after shaking and pouring the drink through the resulting gap. The market offers now 18 oz or 20 oz container versions too. The unit is the imperial fluid ounce that is about 28,4 ml, so the bottom is about 795 ml and the 16 oz container is about 454 ml.
The Cobbler Shaker: A three-piece cocktail shaker that has tapers at the top and ends with a built-in strainer and includes a cap. The cap can often be used as a measure for spirits or other liquids.
The French Shaker: A two-piece shaker consisting of a metal bottom and a metal cap. A strainer is always required for this type of shaker, barring the separation method
The cocktail shaker can be traced to 7000 BCE in prehispanic Mexico and South America, where the jar gourd was used as a closed container. In 1520, Cortés wrote to King Charles V of Spain of a drink made from cacao, served to Montezuma with much reverence, frothy and foaming from a golden cylinder. Egyptians as long ago as 3500 BCE added spices to their fermented grain concoctions before serving to make them more palatable.
By the late 19th century, the cocktail shaker as we now know it was in wide use, invented by an innkeeper who, while using two containers to pour drinks back and forth between, noticed that one container’s mouth was smaller than the other’s and held the two together and shook them “for a bit of a show”.
2 Examples of shakers from the 1950s. Left with spun aluminum cap, right with chromed steel cap
During the 1920s prohibition era in the United States, cocktail shakers were produced in many different shapes and designs, including shakers that looked like penguins, zeppelins, lighthouses and airplanes. Cocktail shaker skills and drink rituals became as important in the Jazz Age lifestyle as knowing the latest dance step. It was after prohibition however, that cocktail shakers really reached their zenith of popularity. They appeared in movies, and were associated with the glamorous lives of movie stars. Cocktail shakers became de rigueur symbols of sophistication and symbols of the good life.
On December 7, 1941, the era of the cocktail shaker faltered seriously, as the United States entered World War II and all non-essential uses of metal were redirected towards the war effort. The same companies and equipment formerly used to manufacture cocktail shakers were used to make artillery shells and other war materials.
In the early 1950s cocktail shakers enjoyed a brief resurgence as soldiers familiar with them returned and became part of the housing boom featuring “rec rooms” with bars. By the later part of the decade though, shakers were quickly giving way to modern electric appliances that either added a mixing unit to the shaker’s lid or did away with the shaker entirely, with the introduction of the electric blender.