There are three main types of cocktail shaker in use today: the Boston shaker, the French shaker and the cobbler. The invention of these simple devices allowed bartenders to produce cocktails that were much more thoroughly mixed and chilled, not to mention give free rein to their showmanship instincts with a well practised shaking technique.
It seems that the cocktail shaker has always been a crucial part of the art of bartending, but in fact it wasn’t invented in the form we know today until the mid nineteenth century. Previous to this, drinks were either mixed with long-handled spoons or even tossed back and forth between glasses!
Unsurprisingly, this was a rather hit and miss process and didn’t always bring out the best in the drink’s ingredients (or even result in much drink at all). . .It was perhaps inevitable that this method would be improved on. However, like much to do with the history of cocktail making, the origins of the cocktail shaker are a little cloudy.
According to the New York Times,it was the bartenders of mid-nineteenth century New York who first began to make use of metal containers to shake rather than stir drinks. These basic tumblers were refined over the years, until Edward Hauck of Brooklyn patented a three-part shaker with a built-in strainer that came to be known as the cobbler shaker.
The cobbler is still sometimes known as the Manhattan shaker, and is considered the easiest type of shaker to use. Anyone who is learning mixology skills for the first time will find this an ideal shaker to start off with, because it tends to be smaller and easier to handle than other types of shaker.
There were several variations on the original design that were patented over the next few years. One of the most elaborate of these devices was an apparatus for mixing six shakers on a turntable at once, invented in the US in 1872 by William Hartnett. In the US, the Boston shaker was the version that eventually became most popular.
This consists of a two piece shaker with an inner glass section that is capable of holding a pint or more of liquid. This makes it ideal for professional bartenders who are mixing more than one drink at a time, but it does require some strength and a bit of practice to handle with aplomb.
Meanwhile, in Europe the French shaker became the favourite tool of the nation’s bartenders. This consists of a two-park shaker that requires a separate strainer. It’s an elegant tapered shape, and generally smaller and easier to handle than a Boston shaker.
Shaken or stirred?
The question made famous by James Bond is still relevant, as not all cocktails should be shaken. As a rule, Martinis should be stirred to prefer the clarity and texture of the drink and to avoid over dilution. Meanwhile any cocktails that contain juice, eggs, milk, or require a cloudy appearance should be shaken.