The Boston shaker is a two-piece cocktail shaker, made of a metal tin and a mixing glass. One vessel is larger than the other. The mixing glass weighs 16 ounces, whereas the shaker tin weighs 28 ounces.

Referred to as the 'tin' by bartenders, it's by far the most popular cocktail shaker and part of the bartending basics. Learn all about the Boston shaker history, use and cocktails below...

Boston shaker history 

bartender holding shaker

The cocktail shaker as a tool for mixing drinks has a long, long history. Cocktail shakers, in their early form, were just tin cup with a smaller glass or other metal tin used to mix drinks.

Archeological evidence has been found, as far back as 7000 B.C., showing that drinks were mixed in vessels larger than those we know these days. The Aztecs were also found to be using a 'golden cylinder-shaped container' to mix cacao drinks.

From here, the history of the cocktail shaker is more related to mixing cocktails. Cocktail shakers became a part of the bartenders' tool kit in the mid-nineteenth century. Before this, cocktails were mixed by “rolling” the mixture between two cups. The theory is that one day someone put these two vessels (of different sizes) together and shook the contents, probably for dramatic effect. The result was a cocktail with a different mouthfeel and slightly different flavour profile too. The Boston shaker had officially been born! 

The technique and cocktail design was further refined over time into the Boston shakers we know today.

How to use a Boston shaker - 6 steps

Bartender pouring with a Boston Shaker

Technically, you don’t need a specific cocktail shaker to shake cocktails. A Boston shaker or a Cobbler shaker both suffice. There are slight differences between both types of cocktail shakers but it’s most down to the bartender’s preference. However, if you're using the Boston shaker, here’s our six steps to using a Boston shaker

Step 1

Take the two tins and fill the second, smaller tin full of ice and the cocktail ingredients for the drink. This is the 'cheater tin', but you can also use a pint glass.

Step 2

Position the other, taller tin at an angle over the lip of the smaller tin, containing the cocktail elements. Hold the bottom tin and hit the top tin to create a vacuum seal between the two shaking tins.

Step 3

Place one hand on the Boston shaker with either your thumb or bottom two fingers over the base of the shaker. Place the other hand on the other half of the shaker, again placing your thumb or bottom two fingers on its base. This grip ensures that if both tins separate during shaking, they won’t fly across the bar.

Step 4

Now, shake vigorously for up to 30 seconds. The goal of shaking is to chill and dilute the cocktail a little. Always remember this!

Step 5

Once finished, there are two methods you can use to separate the tins. The first method is to hit the side of the Boston shaker with your hand, to hear a pop signaling the separation. The second is to squeeze the bottom of the shaker just above the seal and pull it apart.

Step 6

To finish, place a Hawthorne strainer on top of the Boston shaker and engage it, so that it will double strain your cocktail. Slowly pour out the cocktail into a glass and serve.

NOTE: When shaking, never face the customer. Always face down the bar, to avoid accident if the tins separate.

There is no right or wrong way to shake a cocktail. However, adjusting how long you shake for, how hard you shake and your shaking motion allows you to find your personal sweet spot for creating quality cocktails.

Boston shaker vs Cobbler shaker: What's the difference?

bartender holding boston shaker

The difference between the Boston shaker and the Cobbler shaker is design. Boston shakers come as two pieces. A stainless steel shaker tin and a mixing glass/smaller tin. This cocktail shaker does not come with a strainer. However, a benefit is that you'll be able to see the cocktail during shaking, if using the glass. Plus, it's super easy to pick up a Hawthorne strainer to strain your concoction.

The Cobbler shaker, however, comes with a built-in strainer and is heavier to shake. This is called a ‘three-piece cocktail shaker’, which includes a base, strainer and lid. 

When it comes to types of cocktail shakers, the Boston and Cobbler shaker are the only choices for bartenders (although there are slight variations on style). It's purely down to personal preference.

Boston shaker appearance

cobbler shaker bar tools

Since its inception, the concept of the cocktail shaker has produced many patents that promised to make better cocktails with many functionless stylistic variations. However, the simple, sleek shape of the Boston shaker still remains the king of cocktail shakers.

The Boston Shaker consists of two vessels; a mixing glass and a metal tin. Most times the shaker comes with two stainless steel vessels, one larger than the other. Sometimes, the second smaller tin (called the cheater tin) is a pint glass. Both tins can sometimes be coated with rubber or stained in a variety of colours like gold, bronze or copper. The stainless steel design is actually vital to the success of the cocktail being shaken, helping to reduce the temperature inside the shaker and of the ingredients too.

When you're getting a Boston shaker, it’s probably going to come with either a 16oz pint glass or a cheater tin. However, remember that this cocktail shaker comes without a strainer. You’re going to want to buy one to help you strain the cocktail after shaking. The Hawthorne strainer is perfectly designed to fit snuggly atop of a Boston Shaker and is our best recommendation.

Boston shaker cocktails

Cocktail cosmopolitan con una guarnizione di arancia

In bartending there’s a saying, ‘you gotta shake it to wake it’. Some cocktails have very heavy ingredients, like egg white, so by shaking you can really amalgamate the flavours. Below, we’ve provided a list of the most common shaken cocktails that need a Boston shaker...

Dry Martini - some types of Martini can be stirred, however.





Gimlet - can also be stirred.

Sour cocktails (Whiskey Sour, Vodka Sour)


Learn more about cocktails in our 'what is a cocktail' blog. Covering cocktail history, recipes and styles...

So, now you know what is a Boston cocktail shaker, let's start using it behind the bar professionally. Check out our bartender course and start your journey...