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Mixing Cocktails 101 – The Methods – Shake and Strain

Shake and Strain

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Depending on the ingredients used and the overall effect we are seeking there are a number of mixing methods that we can use to make cocktails. We’ve covered built drinks already and today we’re going to look at the most visible – shaking.

Shaking and cocktails appear to go hand in hand – it often seems like anytime more than two ingredients are involved they have to be tossed into a tin and shaken around by an enthusiastic bartender. Shaking is an aggressive mixing motion and helps us to mix and chill multiple ingredients quickly and efficiently. The aggressive nature of shaking means that getting the correct technique is very important.


You can start by setting your mixing glass on a table, giving yourself enough room to work.

Add your ingredients

Add your ingredients (whiskey, lemon, syrups etc) into the mixing glass, being careful to measure for the correct amounts.

Fill the mixing glass with ice – we add the ice last to minimise dilution.

Place the shaker tin on top of mixing glass, being careful to have a slight angle to avoid a ‘perfect seal’ (which is a real pain in the wherever to try and get off) and give a nice, hard tap to seal the glass and the shaker.

Ready for some shaking
Ready for some shaking

Start shaking

Hold the shaker, ensuring you have a solid grip of both the mixing glass and the shaker tin (we don’t want to let go by mistake!), and shake hard in nice big movements allowing the ice to travel from one end of the shaker to the other. The further the ice travels the better as it will mix and cool the drink faster – you’ll hear a ‘clack clack’ sound as the ice hits each end of the shaker if you’re doing this correctly.


How to shake a drink

Continue shaking hard until you have the right level of cooling and dilution – the exact time depends on the style of drink, but around 10-12 seconds will usually be good. If you’ve shaken hard enough then there should be condensation on the shaker tin.

Separate the shaker and mixing glass

Now its time to separate the shaker. Hold the shaker tin in one hand and use the palm of your other hand to give a hard ‘tap’ on the tin where the mixing glass and shaker meet. This should break the seal and allow you to lift the mixing glass off and away.

Time for a taste test

Now it’s time to taste test the cocktail. Use your finger to cover the end of a straw and dip it into the cocktail so that you can get some liquid to taste. You want to check whether the cocktail tastes balanced (the right levels of sweet/sour/bitter) and make sure the flavours are correct. If you need to make any adjustments then do so now and either stir or give another quick shake.

The cocktail tastes good (of course!) so it’s time to transfer the drink from the shaker to a glass.

Ice in your glass?

Check your recipe to see whether you need to fill your destination glass with ice (if you’re using a Collins or an Old Fashioned, you will probably need to). If you do, fill it right to the top, as more ice = colder drinks.

Strain and pour

You can use your Hawthorne strainer to pour your drink into the glass without any ice or other junk in the shaker following along for the ride. If you are pouring into a cocktail glass, you won’t be using icing the glass, so you can double or fine strain by pouring through a tea strainer placed between the Hawthorne strainer and the glass – this will help collect any small pieces of ice or fruit that and make the cocktail look better.

Finish off by adding your garnish and a straw (if necessary).

All done!

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