It seems as though the Martini is here to stay, which means that knowing the correct way to use a Martini shaker is a valuable bit of information. Explore the history and use of a basic piece of cocktail equipment.
History of the Martini Shaker
Using containers to shake and combine liquids is a practice that actually dates back thousands of years, but the modern Martini shaker appears to have come into use sometime during the mid to late 1800s. Legend says that an innkeeper grew bored of pouring drinks back and forth between two containers to mix them. He noticed he could fit the mouth of one container inside the other so he began holding the two containers together and shaking them.
By the 1870s, the idea had caught on to the extent that inventors were creating new and improved ways to shake cocktails. The U.S. Patent Office issued a number of patents for shakers of various designs, and cocktail shakers became a bar essential. The growing popularity of the electric blender began threatening the shaker's dominance in the late 1960s, but the renewed interest in the Martini in the 1990s has brought the cocktail shaker back.
Basic Types of Martini Shakers
There are two basic types of cocktail shakers, the Boston shaker and the cobbler. The cobbler is more common for home use, and is made up of three pieces - a container, a lid with a built-in strainer, and a cap for the opening in the lid. The design is easy for beginners to handle, but there are disadvantages as well. The strainer can be difficult to clean and is easily blocked by ice or pieces of fruit, making it slow to pour. It's more difficult to pour neatly into the glass, and if the lid doesn't fit well, the cobbler may leak.Bartenders more commonly use the two piece Boston shaker. It is made up of a metal mixing tumbler, with a smaller glass or plastic tumbler that fits inside. It will take practice to get the hang of seating the glass tumbler so that it doesn't shift while mixing, and most people should shake with both hands, but they're easier to clean, and once mastered, faster to use. A separate strainer is needed with the Boston shaker.
The Correct Way to Use a Martini Shaker
Unless the recipe instructs differently, fill the shaker approximately half to three-quarters full of ice. For best results, use medium-sized ice cubes, not big chunks or crushed ice. Extremely large pieces of ice will not chill the cocktail thoroughly, while crushed ice will melt too quickly and water down the drink.
Add the liquid ingredients to the shaker. Pour the spirits first, and then follow with the mixers. The shaker should be no more half to three-quarters full when prepared to shake.
If using a cobbler shaker, place the lid firmly on top and test to make sure that the fit is snug and the shaker does not leak. If using a Boston shaker, place the glass tumbler face-down into the metal tumbler, and thump the bottom of the glass with your palm to create a seal. Some bartenders will demonstrate their successful technique by grasping the top tumbler only and lifting the shaker slightly off the counter, but this isn't recommended for beginners.
Unless you've had a great deal of practice, the correct way to use a martini shaker is with both hands. Hold the shaker with one hand on the top and one on the bottom, and shake vigorously until the tumbler is very cold to the touch. For most cocktails, approximately 15 seconds will be sufficient. For cocktails made with raw egg whites, shake for approximately 30 second to make sure the egg is emulsified.
If using a cobbler shaker, remove the cap from the lid, and pour the cocktail through the strainer into the serving glass. With a Boston shaker, it will be necessary to break the seal by slapping the metal tumbler where it meets the glass tumbler with the heel of your hand. Place a strainer over the mouth of the tumbler, and pour the cocktail into the glass.
The art of the martini shaker is easily mastered. With only a little practice, you can use this classic piece of bar equipment to create delicious cocktails, and even add a little flair to your home bartending.