I have a confession to make: In the last six months, I have been spending a lot of time in my home bar. And I've been learning to make all kinds of cocktails while participating in enthusiast groups on Facebook. In addition to following some of my friends, who also like to mix a few drinks on occasion, such as gin aficionado Jono Bacon (of open source and Ubuntu Linux fame), I've also been reading various books on the subject. This includes the classic Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide and tiki tomes from rum meccas like Smuggler's Cove.
From participating in online mixology communities and reading bartending and cocktail books, one learns that no matter how minimalist or elaborate your home bar is, you will need a few essential bar tools.
A bar shaker set is one of those essentials. There are many drinks you can make that do not require shaking, such as Martinis, Mojitos, Old Fashioneds, Negronis, Gin and Tonics, Rum and Cokes, and various types of swizzled cocktails, all of which are "build in glass" types and served in tumblers, highballs, or rocks glasses.
However, some of the best cocktails, particularly the tiki variety, such as the Mai Tai, need to be shaken and strained for the right temperature and consistency. In addition to enjoying chilled shots of vodka, tequila, and other spirits, this "shaken list" includes Margaritas, Daiquiris, Cosmopolitans, and various types of "Up" drinks that are served in coupes and cocktail glasses extremely cold.
The evolution of cocktail shakers
You're probably thinking any bar shaker set will do -- but I own several different shakers, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.
A common type of shaker -- and one of the oldest designs -- is the Cobbler Shaker. It's popular with folks at home because most Cobblers have an integrated strainer in the lid, once the cap is removed. The ones that do not have integrated strainers are referred to as "Parisian" style shakers. They are attractive looking and require not much else in terms of additional tooling in order to use. Some, like the OXO, are insulated so that you don't get freezing cold hands when using it or heavy condensation, which creates pools of liquid on the counter after you set down the shaker. Some also have integrated measuring jiggers built into the cap. But all Cobblers have several disadvantages:
- Harder to wash
- Typically handle a smaller volume of liquid so hard to make more than one drink at a time
- They tend to lock up and can be difficult to open
- They are more prone to making a mess
- The built-in strainer is typically not as useful as a dedicated fine strainer
- Addition of herbs and other non-liquid ingredients can cause the strainer to clog
For these reasons, professional bartenders tend not to use cobbler-style shakers. Instead, they use Boston tins,
Boston tins are as simple as can be. Made of stainless steel, they are virtually indestructible and dishwasher-safe -- as long as you don't buy the kind that is copper-plated. They are weighted and well-balanced. They have plenty of space inside for aeration, and they hold a lot of liquid and ice volume, so you can make multiple drinks at a time. The smaller tins are also useful for making stirred drinks, such as the Martini, provided you have a cocktail stirring spoon. They are also easy to strain.
But like the cobbler-style/Parisian style, they have disadvantages.
- They get very cold, making them uncomfortable to handle, and because they aren't insulated, due to heat transfer, they will condensate and can create puddles of water on the counter.
- The thermal transfer from having no insulation also can cause over-dilution of the drink.
- You need a jigger or measuring cup to measure ingredients if you use one.
- You need a Hawthorne-style strainer to strain your drink.
- When it gets cold, the cups can get stuck together.
Taking the respective advantages and disadvantages of these two shaker types into consideration, is there any room for improvement? Is an ultimate cocktail shaker for the home bar possible? The folks over at Elevated Craft believe it is possible. This Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company, formed by industrial designer Adam Craft, just shipped their first product on Kickstarter 10 months after its funding.
Enter Elevated Craft
The Elevated Craft cocktail shaker ($55) is, in my opinion, the best cocktail shaker for home use, whether you are a novice or an experienced mixologist. It is made of 18/8 stainless steel, with double-walled, vacuum-insulated construction. It incorporates an integrated strainer (like a Cobbler does), but the cover functions as a 6-oz measuring cup, with notches in 1oz/30ml increments. The metric and imperial graduated volumes in the measuring cup are:
- Metric: 7ml, 15ml, 30ml, 60ml, 90ml, 120ml, 150ml, 180ml
- Imperial: 1/4oz, 1/2oz, 1oz, 2oz, 3oz, 4oz, 5oz, 6oz
On the surface, it sounds like a more-improved cobbler/Parisian, which effectively, it is -- but it incorporates some other key improvements, such as a liquid volume of 750ml, with the top attached. The shaker tumbler itself has a volume of 19.75oz.
Naturally, because this shaker has a much higher volume than a typical cobbler-style shaker, it is also considerably larger. To handle this, Elevated Craft designed it to be taller than a cobbler-style shaker -- it is 10.68 inches tall x 3.45 inches wide. The tumbler's top opening is 3.25-inch wide, making it compatible with a Hawthorne-type strainer if you want to use one of those instead of the integrated strainer under the cap.
This product's construction and industrial design are gorgeous; it looks like something that came out of Cupertino or an aerospace company. The tumbler connects to the measuring top and the strainer cap using a threaded locking design, with BPA-free silicone gaskets. You can shake the thing like crazy with one hand, and nothing is going to come flying off. The stainless steel construction also makes it dishwasher safe.
Its double-walled thermal insulation gives the product an enormous edge over any rival; you will get your drinks to ice cold with this shaker because you can shake it for a long time. As there is a minimal thermal transfer, you can barely feel any reduction in temperature while using it, and minimal dilution of the drink is also a huge plus. The shaker's insulation will keep your cocktail cold for up to 24 hours.
Because the tumbler is completely insulated, it's also a very quiet shaker -- you don't get that heavy rattling/ice crunching noise that you would otherwise get with a Boston tin set. Some people may see that as a product weakness because you don't get the same dramatic sound effect. Additionally, the lack of thermal transfer means that you have to judge the drink's coldness by how long you have shaken it -- with a Boston set, when that tin gets uncomfortably cold, you know that drink is ready.
The other issue is that it resembles more of a Thermos than a cocktail shaker due to the tumbler's height. So while you definitely can use it one-handed, it's a little cumbersome to do so, especially if you don't have long arms.
The integrated strainer under the cap is good enough for popular drinks like Margaritas. However, if you want a finer strained cocktail, you'll want to get yourself that Hawthorne, or a wire mesh culinary-type strainer.
The locking mechanism, also similar to that used on a Thermos vacuum bottle, is very effective. As Elevated Craft took no shortcuts in the construction (the product is made entirely of stainless steel), there is an initial breaking-in period with the top and strainer cap. At first, you may notice a scraping sound, some friction, and a closure gap with the gasket seal -- purely an aesthetic issue as the top and cap lock mechanisms still close shut -- but there are no leaks. After several days of use, this issue resolves itself, as the top becomes flush. Still, some users may need to apply a small amount of vegetable oil to the silicone gaskets to smooth out the connectors' threading and reduce the friction, and it may require an additional twist to create a seamless seal.
No cocktail shaker design is flawless, but the Elevated Craft is as close to perfect as I have ever encountered and well worth the premium price.