Boston Shaker vs Cobbler Shaker – Which is better?

Last Updated on April 20, 2022 by Bill Allen

Boston Shaker vs Cobbler Shaker – Which is better?

Shaken or stirred? Shaken. Boston shaker or cobbler shaker, the 3-piece? Umm, what? Cocktail confusion shouldn’t be happening before you take a sip, so to banish any uncertainty with an in-depth look at the two most common shakers available – the Boston and the Cobbler three-piece shaker.

Both types were given a fair shake down through some hands-on research and expert advice from me and a few of my friends. And below are what I’ve learned when it comes to the battle of the Boston Shaker vs Cobbler Shaker.

The Boston Shaker

Boston Shaker Set
Boston Shaker Set

The classic, straightforward style of the Boston shaker makes it the go-to for most bartenders. Due to its stripped down style, a few additional bar tools are necessary if using a Boston shaker. To strain out larger items like ice cubes, a hawthorn strainer is necessary. If crystal clear cocktails are your goal, an extra fine strainer can be used in addition to the hawthorn to filter out finer particles like pulp.

To Use:

  1. Fill the glass (or smaller metal piece) with ingredients. Then place the tin on top of the cup. With the heel of your palm, lightly wack the shaker in place to form a tight seal.
  2. With one hand on the tin and one on the glass, shake the cocktail for a good ten to twenty seconds, or until frost forms on the outside of the metal.
  3. When finished, place the shaker with the metal side down, and tap the ‘sweet spot’ to release the two pieces. Place the hawthorn strainer over top the metal shaker, and pour into the proper glassware.

You would think this is the easiest and therefore standard choice for amateurs, but there is one aspect which always intimidates the first time user, the pre-mentioned tap.

Mastering the Tap

The tap is the very scientific term for the action necessary to separate a shaker that has become stuck together. This inevitable sticking happens every time you use the shaker due to shrinking and subsequent expanding metal and/or glass from the sudden temperature changes. Haphazardly smacking your shaker won’t do much. The trick is where the shaker meets. Either metal on metal or glass on metal you need to place pressure there to release it.

More often than not, inexperienced users are tempted to bang the sealed shaker against a tabletop. Resist this temptation! All it will lead to is a shattered glass cocktail. Save your new shaker and look like a professional by firmly tapping the palm of your hand against the pivotal point. A strong squeeze will quickly and flawlessly release it as well.

Practice Makes Perfect

The tap takes practice, but barely. I managed to master it in only three tries! The squeezing technique was even easier, although I preferred the more theatrical technique of the tap.

The Three Piece or Cobbler Shaker

cobble shaker parts
cobbler shaker set

A three piece shaker, also known as a cobbler shaker, is an all-in-one solution to the Boston shaker. This bar tool consists of a base shaker, a built in strainer and a lid to keep it closed, which can double as a liquor measurer.

To Use:

  1. Fill the shaker will necessary ingredients, including multiple ice cubes.
  2. Shake for ten to twenty seconds.
  3. Remove the cap, but leave the strainer in place, and pour into desired glass.

The built-in strainer makes this shaker “farther along in evolution” when compared to the more basic Boston. But progression isn’t always positive, since these have a reputation of minor, but all the while, frustrating leakage. When this shaker sticks together, there is no sweet spot to smack. The best solution to get it unstuck is to run it under warm water or wait.

The three piece shaker was definitely the more simplified option, especially as a first timer.  I must mention that the built-in strainer, partially due to ice blockage and less perforations, produced a considerably slower pour.

Materials Matter Too!

Once you choose which type of shaker fits your style, you have to choose a material.

Cobbler Three Piece Materials

The three piece shaker comes in either plastic or stainless steel, each having their own unique functions.

  • Plastic

Due to plastic’s see-through qualities, that style of shaker can be a good option if you want your guests to literally see the action. Plastic is also beneficial if you’re stocking an outdoor bar. Additionally, plastic parts tend to minimize the ever-present problem of sticking parts. Plastic does tend to hold onto smells, however, which can pose a problem if mixing a variety of liquors.

  • Stainless Steel 

Stainless steel is definitely the preferred option of shaker since it conducts cold better than plastic, resulting in a predictably cooler drink. Moreover, stainless steel does not retain smells, so switching from cocktail to cocktail with a quick water rinse isn’t an issue.

Boston Shaker Materials

Since this shaker is two pieces, you have the choice of metal on metal or metal on glass.

  • Metal on Metal

Metal on metal will result in the coldest cocktail the quickest when compared to all other options. You tend to get a cocktail colder, faster because there is no thermal exchange between the glass and the metal. If you’re a little more experienced, a metal on metal option is the most balanced choice, resulting in a more stabilized shake.

  • Metal on Glass

Again, in terms of transparency, metal on glass is a great option. The glass will showcase your signature cocktail while the metal chills it.

A Few Awesome Shakers!

Here are a few of my top picks when it comes to shakers. These are the basics and every home bar needs at least one shaker or set. The ones I’ve listed below are affordable and all quality made. Just be sure to get a stainless steel set and not plastic unless you’re by a pool or something.

A Bar Above Boston Shaker

a bar above boston shaker
A Bar Above Boston Shaker

This is a nice shaker made from quality materials. You can see more information here. What I like the most about this shaker set is it is weighted, which means it doesn’t feel like an empty aluminum can in your hands. Rather there is some weight to it and feels like a proper bar tool. Kind of like the difference between a good watch and a plastic one.

Barfly Cocktail Shaker

Barfly Cocktail Shaker
Barfly Cocktail Shaker

This is another great shaker, but this one is a Cobbler. I comes in a under $20 for the 3 piece set. Again, this is a weighted set made of quality stainless steel, so the set should last you a lifetime. And it’ll look great in any home or professional bar. You can get it delivered overnight from Amazon.

Do Drinks Matter?

The cobbler shaker derived its name from the cocktail best suited for its usage. Cobblers should have that frothy, iced sorta feel to them. But with that rare order being the only one, I buy, in all intents and purposes, a metal on metal Boston shaker.

Cobbler Shaker vs Boston Shaker … And The Winner Is …

It really depends on how meticulous you are with mixing. I see the three piece for a casual home drinker. The Boston shaker with a hawthorn and a fine strainer? That’s for somebody who cares more about their bar who wants to go through all the steps. Think of it as someone using scissors to cut up vegetables in a kitchen versus someone skilled on a chef’s knife. It’s all the same it just depends on how you want to get there.

Still Have Questions?

Additionally, you may see some shaker cups coated in vinyl. A user friendly option, this shaker will keep your hands from freezing while shaking which can be particularly pleasant when shaking multiple drinks.

Another side note is that there is a third type of shaker, known as The Parisian or French style shaker. Fairly uncommon, the Parisian shaker has the bottle-like shape of a three piece, minus the strainer– making it a combination of the previously discussed two.

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