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May 27, 2010 10:34 AM

Leaky cocktail shakers?

I've only recently gotten into serious cocktail making at home, and am still working on my barware collection. I've had a real problem finding shakers that won't leak. My local housewares store had several makes & models, so I started out buying the one I thought looked the coolest (metallic blue).

First time I used it the thing leaked while shaking. I took it back to the store, where the clerk was curious enough to take it out back and run some water into it, and verified my complaint. So we then tested all the other models on hand (it was a slow afternoon with no other customers in the store), and found that with one exception, they ALL leaked when shaken!

The exception was an OXO, which works fine but is made of plastic so is less than ideal for chilling drinks. Last weekend I picked up another while on a trip to Provincetown, in a serious high-end kitchenware store - this one made by Fliptop - and it too leaks when shaken. Not only that, it has a substantial reservoir capacity inside the filter top, which makes it unusually difficult to clean. Run it through the dishwasher and it comes out full of questionably clean water.

Am I just having bad luck or is this a common problem? What makes/models can you recommend as reliably well-sealed and good performers?

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  1. Have you tried using a heavy duty glass pint glass and a metal shaker tin? You're going to have some minor leakage with just about any shaker, this happens after using a tin over period of several months and the ice hits it, eventually stretching the metal. Shakers with too many pieces are a little bit more unreliable, as far as leaks are concerned, and plastic ones don't get the ice seal from shaking a cocktail with ice.

    4 Replies
    1. re: BeautifulVesper

      From a cooling point of view, plastic is a plus. You want the heat absorbed by the ice to come from the liquids, not from the shaker. Plastic has poor thermal conductivity -- it's a thermal insulator. Just what you want. You won't be able to feel the cold (another plus -- your hands won't ache), so you'll have to judge the temperature by time.

      That said, I don't care for plastic for aesthetic reasons.

      The only time you'd want good thermal conductivity is if you had a pre-chilled shaker of high thermal mass. This isn't very practical.

      A Boston shaker is the way to go. Once you get the hang of it, they don't leak (often). I have two cobbler shakers. My small one leaks. My large one doesn't leak but gets stuck shut. I don't use them much.

      1. re: EvergreenDan

        Good point - I was thinking backwards about metal vs plastic thermodynamics. Though I agree, plastic is aesthetically less desirable.

        Still, functionally that makes my OXO - cobbler though it is - a good deal. Maybe I should just get a couple more of them. What makes you say a Boston shaker is better?

        1. re: BobB

          Aside from the answers below, the Boston Shaker is larger, so it mixes better/faster. You can see the ingredients (a bonus I like), and once you figure out the technique, easier to separate. Your OXO seems like a good thing. In fact, I think they are (or are going to) make an insulated one, which would be a good idea.

          When I knock the boston shaker open, I tip the glass at and angle and let the glass drain into the tin. This gets most of the contents out. After straining from the tin into the glass(es), I pour the little bit in the glass into the glasses too. Or drink it if I'm at home without guests. :)

      2. re: BeautifulVesper

        One restaurant's bar here in Boston has had the same set of silver cobler shakers for years (they pre-date at least 3 generations of bartenders). They are well loved and not abused, dropped, and the like, and suffer not from this ice expansion stretching.

        Same with my first cobbler shaker that we've had for 8 years and still sees regular use (probably has made 500+ drinks to date). It was a promotional freebie from Kettle One (we needed some vodka to stock the bar). It sees a lot of thermal stress from ice and heat from the dish washer drying cycle. Never leaks.

        Leaks probably occur from poor materials (wear out or bend too easily), poor design (not enough overlap to seal, manufacturing defects, or wrong angle for seal), misuse and abuse.

        With that said, Boston Shakers if the tin is paired up with the glass (tempered with rounded edges, not just a generic pint glass) to fit well is probably the best way to go. If not paired, it could be too loose, or too tight (frustrating to separate). And if the tin or glass goes, you can swap them (unlike a cobbler which is 3 pieces that are not replaceable). Plus, the Boston Shaker allows you to stir drinks better (all in one, opposed to a cobbler shaker and a pint glass).

      3. I guess these are cobbler shakers (three-piece with built in strainer)?
        As BeautifulVesper says, a Boston shaker, which is fairly cheap to buy, won't leak if used properly. But if you want a cobbler shaker or two-piece Parisian shaker, you don't need to spend a lot of money, but you do need to get one from a reliable source.

        Most professional bartenders in the US don't use cobbler shakers (though they are very popular in some other countries). This doesn't mean that cobbler shakers are bad, but it does mean that it's harder to find a good one here.

        Some suggestions of good sources for barware, and some specific shaker suggestions in this thread:

        If you think a metallic blue shaker is cool, then perhaps we have different taste in barware, but you might like some of the stuff at the barproducts site linked to from that thread.

        The kind of shakers that most professionals use will be cheaper than the consumer ones you're looking at. If you want to spend a little more, choose your source wisely or you're just going to be getting ripped off. The stuff at Cocktail Kingdom is well-chosen and generally worth the money.

        One other point - if you haven't already, take the time to learn when to shake and when to stir.

        3 Replies
        1. re: will47

          Thanks for the rundown on the terminology, I googled the definitions.

          The OXO one I have is a cobbler shaker, with a strainer in the top half and a cap marked for measuring. Works great, no leakage, easy to clean, but as I said - plastic.

          My Fliptop is a two-piece that doesn't fall into any of the three classic categories. The top, while it looks like a nifty design with a built-in flip-up strainer, in fact is impractical and hard to clean. And it leaks. Total waste of money.

          I agree that a good inexpensive professional tool is likely to be a better performer that an overly fancy consumer model - certainly my trusty waiter's corkscrew works more reliably than many more expensive wine-opening gadgets I've seen.

          As for shaking vs stirring - I understand the difference, but don't always follow the recommended protocols. Sometimes I actually WANT a bunch of slushy ice shards in my martini!

          1. re: BobB

            A Boston Shaker is definitely the way to go. I use it with a heavy pint glass, and as long as the seal is good (and your ingredients don't go above the glass level), it's never leaked. I have a cobbler shaker (metal) that was my original one, but sometimes the top cap is difficult to remove, rendering the internal strainer useless.

          2. re: will47

            I started that linked-to thread posted above just the other day.

            I wound up doing all my shopping through I got three tins in various sizes, a strainer, and one 3 piece cobbler shaker. I have to say I absolutely love the tins and haven't even used the cobbler once. The tins are easy to use and I didn't have to worry about leaks.
            Bonus: My entire order I listed above cost me less than $30 including shipping. Can't beat that.

          3. Wish I knew the name of it, but I have a stainless shaker, it has a rotating outer portion that you can rotate, with drinks and their ingredients listed. It never leaks, I actually have a hard time opening the darn thing! Sort of looks like this, but this isn't the one! When I get home I'll see if I can find a brand name on it.