We Tested 9 Boston Shakers–Here’s How Our Favorites Shake Out

Most mixologists prefer Boston shakers over cobbler cocktail shakers. We tested 9 Boston shakers to find the best ones.

four boston shakers (made of different materials) on a grey countertop
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

There’s no sound more closely associated with mixology than that of a cocktail being shaken. But shaking a cocktail isn’t just about theatrics (even though it is fun to watch a bartender vigorously shake a drink). 

Mixing a drink in a shaker creates a perfectly balanced cocktail with fully combined ingredients and just the right amount of chill and dilution from the melting ice.

And when it comes to making shaken cocktails, most experienced mixologists turn to the Boston shaker, which (generally) consists of two metal tins—one of which is inverted to form a seal. This style of shaker is prized for its simplicity: it’s easy to use behind the bar, and even easier to clean. But its ubiquity in the bartending world has led to an oversaturated market; Amazon returns seven pages of results when searching for cocktail shakers. And it can be hard to determine at first glance which shaker sets are worth your money and which are duds.

Because while Boston shakers are all very similar looking, there are design nuances that affect how each shaker actually performs; things like whether the shakers are weighted, how those weights are attached and the shape of the shaker, to name a few. To find the best Boston shakers, we tested nine popular models. 

The Winners, at a Glance

The Best Boston Shaker: Modern Mixologist Tin on Tin Shakers

The Modern Mixologist shakers formed a strong seal throughout multiple tests. They were also well-balanced, nicely weighted, and made of stainless steel, which made for easy use and cleanup.

The Best Budget Boston Shaker: Piña Barware Stainless Steel Boston Shaker Tin Set

The Piña Barware shaker set is about $5 to $10 cheaper than most of the other shakers we tested, but doesn’t sacrifice any performance and seals as well as our top pick. The only downside is the build quality isn’t quite up to the standard set by the Modern Mixologist tins.

The Tests

  • Dry Shake Test: We performed a “dry shake” test (shaking without ice) with each shaker using the ingredients for a whiskey sour. We noted how well each shaker maintained its seal while shaking the ingredients and how well-combined the drink was after 15 to 20 seconds of shaking. We weighed each cocktail before adding ice in order to determine the amount of dilution. We also noted how easy each shaker was to unseal and seal again after getting wet.
  • Wet Shake Test: We performed a secondary shaking test with each shaker—this time with about 110 grams of ice and the ingredients for a whiskey sour. We shook another 10-15 seconds to chill and dilute the cocktail. We noted how easily each seal broke when it was time to strain each cocktail, and weighed each whiskey sour after shaking to see if any shaker affected dilution more than another.
  • Strainer Fit Test: We checked to see how well a Hawthorne strainer fit over the opening of the large shaker tin in each set and if there were any issues with straining.
  • Long Shake Test: We mixed a Ramos Gin Fizz with each shaker. This drink is notorious for how long it takes to properly combine the ingredients with egg white and cream. We wanted to see how well a shaker set remained sealed after about five minutes of extended shaking. 
  • Taste Tests: We tasted each cocktail to ensure they were properly chilled, diluted, and aerated.
  • Usability Tests: We examined how balanced and easy to shake each shaker set was. We also noted any design choices that complicated the sealing or shaking process.
  • Cleanup Tests: After each test, we cleaned each shaker set by hand, noting how easy or difficult each was to clean.

A Primer on Cocktail Shaking and Boston Shakers

Why Should Some Cocktails Be Shaken?

What exactly does shaking do for a cocktail? There are a few crucial processes that occur while shaking that affect the general character of a finished drink:

  • Mixing: When combining ingredients of different densities, like liquor, fruit juice, and sugar, vigorously shaking a cocktail ensures that all of the ingredients are fully combined.
  • Chilling and dilution: Shaking the cocktail ingredients with ice quickly chills the drink. When doing so, some of the ice inevitably melts and dilutes the cocktail. This increases the volume of the cocktail by adding water while the alcohol content remains the same and lowers the overall ABV of the drink, softening any burn from the alcohol and making it a bit more palatable.
  • Aeration: When shaking a cocktail, the air inside the shaking tins gets mixed into the drink, creating tiny air bubbles. This affects the overall texture and feel of the cocktail and can help soften some stronger bitter or tart flavors.

So, when exactly does a cocktail need to be shaken as opposed to being stirred? The general rule of thumb is that a cocktail should be shaken when its ingredients contain citrus juice, dairy, or egg white—basically when combining liquids with different densities. Spirit-forward drinks that don’t include fruit juice, like the Manhattan, Old Fashioned, or Martini, should be stirred.

What's the Difference Between Boston and Cobbler Shakers?

There are two types of shakers predominantly used in mixology: Boston shakers and cobbler shakers. 

Boston shakers tend to be favored by most bartenders because of their size, simplicity, ease of use, and easy cleanup. They’re essentially just two tins, one larger than the other, that fit together to form an airtight seal. Boston shakers are also the largest type of shaker. They provide plenty of space to shake the cocktail back and forth, properly chilling and diluting the drink in the process and giving bartenders the ability to mix multiple servings of the same cocktail at once.

Cobbler shakers are a bit more complex. They come with three pieces: a large shaker tin, a small lid with a built-in strainer, and a cap. In theory, cobbler shakers should make mixing a drink more streamlined since the strainer is already part of the shaker. In practice, the strainers tend not to be fine enough to properly strain the cocktail. Not only do they need extra straining, but they also tend to have a smaller overall capacity compared to Boston shakers.

How to Use a Boston Shaker

GIF of a Boston shaker being shaken with two hands
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Using a Boston shaker is simple, but it does take a bit of practice to do so effectively. A Boston shaker is comprised of a large and small tin. To make a shaken cocktail, all of the ingredients are first placed in the large tin. Ice is then added and the smaller tin is placed on top. The smaller tin should sit at about half an inch to an inch from the top of the large tin and should be at an angle, with one side aligned with the side of the large tin. 

Before beginning to shake, give the small tin a strong smack in order to seal the two tins together. Then shake vigorously for about 10-15 seconds. You want to be able to feel the ice and cocktail ingredients going from one side of the tins to the other. Shaking with ice also strengthens the seal by lowering the temperature inside the sealed shaker and creating a vacuum that holds the tins together tightly.

After about 15 seconds of shaking, the shaker should be almost too cold to touch. Your drink is now done, however, the seal created while shaking might make the tins difficult to pull apart. To break the seal, look at where the two tins are attached. On one side of the small tin, there is more space between the tin walls. Smack the shaker where that gap is, and it should force the seal to break. 

Once the tins are separated, affix a Hawthorne strainer to the top of the tin to hold back the ice and any muddled ingredients, then pour your mixed cocktail into your preferred serving glass.

What We Learned

Analyzing How the Boston Shakers Are Designed

By their nature, Boston shakers are extremely simple tools. There isn’t much variation on the basic, two-tin design, but those small deviations can make a big difference in how effective the shakers are.

When trying to find the best possible shaker, we found the most important factor was how well it sealed. The last thing anyone wants is for the shaker to break apart, spilling the cocktail ingredients on your hands and wasting a good drink—and what affected the seal the most was the material the tins were made of. Some came with one glass shaker and one metal shaker (i.e. stainless steel), while others were all metal.

Metal Shakers Were More Reliable

An up close look at the broken seal of a copper Boston shaker
The copper Boston shaker we tested consistently had its seal break, as shown here.Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

From testing, it was clear that the most reliable material was stainless steel, tin-on-tin shakers. These shakers formed the most consistent, reliable seals—seals that held up even after five minutes of extended shaking. The steel and glass shaker was the most common variation, but when using glass to shake drinks with ice, there is always the possibility of the glass chipping or cracking. And the copper shaker we tested had the weakest seal of any shaker.

Weight and Shape Were Important

The weight and shape of a shaker also affected how easy each was to use. Some Boston shaker sets are weighted, meaning they either have weights attached to either end or are built with thicker materials. This added weight helped to keep the shaker balanced in our hands, which made it easier to shake properly. Some shakers had extra weights welded or bolted to the ends base of each shaker tin. Some of these shakers felt more unbalanced, but over time this style of weight can loosen and possibly fall off of the tin.

Flared Bases Were a No-Go

Another common design variation we found was the shape of the bases of the tins. Some shakers had flared bases, meaning the sides flared out and were wider on the end opposite the opening. This can be helpful for ensuring the tins don’t tip over while adding ingredients, but flared bases can make shaking awkward or uncomfortable depending on how you like to hold your shaker. Generally, we preferred bases that were not flared—with a little care, these won’t tip over and they were more comfortable to hold onto and shake.

The Criteria: What We Look for in a Boston Shaker

Boston shaker being held by two hands and with text around it
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

We’ve established that Boston shakers are simple tools. That’s what makes them so useful behind the bar—they’re easy to use and clean. So, what sets shakers apart?

The best Boston shakers are reliable and easy to use. They have tins made from all stainless steel, are able to maintain their seal while shaking (even for a long period of time),  and provide enough balance and weight to make shaking feel like a natural motion. They also have straight, rather than flared, bases.

The Best Boston Shaker: Modern Mixologist Tin on Tin Shakers

What we liked: When testing the shakers side-by-side, the Modern Mixologist shaking tins immediately stood out—they are very well-crafted shaker tins. Weighing 440 grams total, they have some good heft but aren't overly heavy. The tins were also sleek and without any welding seams, so there’s no risk of any parts coming loose or breaking off with extended use.

This set also performed well on every shaking test. It sealed perfectly on the first attempt and did not leak during any of the dry or wet shake tests. When shaking, we were able to get proper aeration and dilution, and the weight of the shaker felt balanced. When it was time to strain the cocktails, it was easy to break the seal, and two different Hawthorne strainers fit the opening of the shakers.

We found the combination of clean, quality design and high-level performance with this Modern Mixologist set to be very impressive. And at a retail price of $30, you can’t do much better than this shaker.

What we didn’t like: The only potential issue with this shaker was its size. It’s slightly shorter and holds just a little bit less liquid than most other weighted shakers. It’s only a difference of a few ounces, but it’s worth considering.

Key Specs

  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Capacity: 26- and 18 3/4-ounce tins
  • Weight: 440 grams
  • Dishwasher-safe: Yes
  • Base: Straight
The Modern Mixologist tins on a grey countertop
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The Best Budget Boston Shaker: Piña Barware Stainless Steel Boston Shaker Tin Set

What we liked: If you’re on a bit of a budget, but still want a high-quality set of shaker tins, the Piña Barware set is a great pick. With a retail price of around $25, this shaker set is about $5 to $10 less than most of the other shakers we tested but sacrifices none of the quality.

The Piña Barware shaker performed well on all of the shaking tests; the shaker tins remained sealed through all dry and wet shake tests. The shaker opening is the same width as the Modern Mixologist, too, so the Hawthorne strainers fit perfectly. 

What we didn’t like: The only downside is that the weights are welded onto the end of both shaker tins. This means that over time, the seams could potentially wear down and the weights could break off from the rest of the tin.

Key Specs

  • Materials: Stainless steel
  • Capacity: 28- and 18-ounce tins
  • Weight: 558 grams
  • Dishwasher-safe: Yes
  • Base: Straight
The Pina Shakers on a grey countertop
Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

The Competition

FAQs

Do you really need to shake your cocktails?

If a cocktail contains citrus juice, egg whites, or dairy, it needs to be shaken to properly combine all of the ingredients. Shaking with ice also chills and dilutes your cocktail, softening some of the stronger flavors from the alcohol in the drink. Spirit-forward cocktails like Manhattans and Martinis (that don’t have any fruit juice) should be stirred. 

Can you use a cocktail shaker for anything else?

Cocktail shakers can be used for mixing other types of drinks as well. Try mixing lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice, straining it, and topping it off with club soda to make a sparkling lemonade.