In What It's Worth, we investigate why an everyday household item is worth buying...and what to look for when shopping for that very item. This week, we are zeroing in on the cocktail shaker.
Whether you're hosting a get-together or just need to relax a little after a long day, the cocktail shaker is an essential accessory for the home bar. And we've all seen the varying styles and prices for cocktail shakers, but there are some key things to keep in mind if you're in the market for one.
Popularized in the early 1930s, the cocktail shaker generally comes in two styles: Traditional and Boston. Traditional cocktail shakers are more common and it's usually made of stainless-steel or metal. It comes with a small top piece that goes on top of the shaker like a lid and also has a strainer construction that allows you to pour a chilled drink without accidentally pouring in the ice.
For a fancier cocktail shaker, there's the Boston style, which often comes in separate parts: a tumbler top, a separate strainer and a body that's usually made of metal on the outside and glass or plastic on the inside. The purpose of the separate strainer is for drinks that are shaken with crushed ice but which aren't served with the crushed ice; the strainer separates the two. Since it's a little easier to clean, professional bartenders favor the Boston style shaker. But honestly, we've had too many martinis that included horrible miniature ice floes, which makes it obvious that most professionals can't even handle a Boston shaker. So for the home bar we say: Pass on the Boston shaker.
There are double metal layered shakers and insulated ones as well, which will keep the drinks chilled and your hands from getting cold while concocting a beverage. However, although insulated shakers may keep the beverage chilled, it has the negative effect of preventing the ice from melting, which means there's no water to dilute the drink (a desirable thing for a perfectly-balanced cocktail).
And finally, we wouldn't immediately rule out plastic shakers. While they are the most thrifty option (in price and in looks), plastic shakers can actually be the best shaker option given that the plastic construction will inhibit heat transfer from your hand and let the ice in the shaker melt from the heat coming from the liquid. But aesthetically speaking, everything else trumps a plain plastic cocktail shaker.
On the whole, an expensive cocktail shaker doesn't mean that it's better. If you're paying prices that are anything above $30, you will be paying for the designer name and the looks. (And even $30 is a stretch, honestly.)
Thinking about buying a shaker or two? Click through the slideshow below for our picks from the marketplace. And let us know in comments below what makes a cocktail shaker worth the buy for you.