Help! My Cocktail Shaker Is Stuck.

Avoid this entertaining mishap with a well-placed tap. 

Published Apr. 7, 2023.

This week, you tried something new: the shaken Southside cocktail. The coupes are chilled, and the guests are ready. Unfortunately, after a few vigorous seconds of shaking and an attempt to break the seal, your shaker is stuck. 

Oh no. 

Don’t despair, it happens more often than you might think. The metal portion of the shaker is such a good conductor of cold that it contracts during the shaking process. Though perfect for a leak-free seal, it’s not so great in conjunction with time. 

The longer you wait to try and break the seal, the worse it can be.  

In How to Cocktail, we walk you through not only how to mix and serve cocktails but also how to avoid this party mishap.

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There are two main types of cocktail shakers: the cobbler shaker and the Boston shaker. 

The cobbler shaker typically has three parts: a bottom cup, a top half with a built-in strainer, and a cap that fits over the open strainer. After building your cocktail in the bottom cup, you just fit on the strainer top, cap it, and shake. All you have to do to serve the cocktail is remove the cap and pour. 

Our winning cobbler shaker, the Tovolo Stainless Steel 4-in-1 Cocktail Shaker, is especially user-friendly, even though it "gets hate mail for being ugly," says ATK Reviews Senior Editor Miye Bromberg, who tested cocktail shakers. "It may not be a pretty object, but it never sticks," she adds.

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The Boston shaker is what you’ll typically see bartenders using (our winner is the aptly named Professional Boston Shaker). It consists of two cups, a mixing glass and shaker tin. You build the cocktail in the mixing glass, invert it into the shaker tin, tap together to create a tight seal, and shake. 

If you’re new to the world of cocktail shakers, the Boston shaker can seem a little intimidating. Admittedly, the learning curve is steeper than a cobbler shaker, and that tight seal can sometimes be a little too tight. But we think it’s worth the effort. Bromberg agrees, saying it's her shaker of choice.

Here are some tips on how to ensure success with your Boston-style shaker.


How To Cocktail

The first-ever cocktail book from America’s most-trusted test kitchen includes essential classics, twists on old favorites; and brand-new test kitchen creations.

How to Prevent a Stuck Boston-Style Shaker

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are some ways you can set yourself up for success, before you even start shaking.

  • Make sure everything is clean. A sticky shaker is a stuck shaker waiting to happen.
  • Mind your strength. The harder you force the components of the shaker together, the stronger the seal will be after chilling. You’ll want to firmly tap the base of the glass with the heel of your hand to form a seal, but don’t go overboard and use all of your strength. 
  • Don’t delay. Frost can build up as the shaker sits, making it that much harder to break the seal. Right when you’ve finished shaking your cocktail, remove the mixing glass from the shaker tin.
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How to Unstick a Boston-Style Cocktail Shaker

Many times, you should be able to simply wiggle the mixing glass back and forth to break the seal. But if that’s not doing the trick, your shaker is officially stuck. Here’s how to fix it.

  1. Position the shaker on the counter with the mixing glass on top and angled toward you. 
  2. Grip the side of the shaker tin with your nondominant hand and, using the heel of your dominant hand, firmly tap the bottom cup just under where the two cups meet.
  3. Repeat as many times as necessary (depending on how stuck the shaker is, you’ll likely have to do this more than once).
  4. Once the seal is broken, immediately remove the mixing glass.

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