It’s a common phenomenon for cocktail shakers to explode during or after shaking. This doesn’t happen often, but it can be alarming and dangerous. The reason for this is that the air bubbles in the drink are heated by the friction from shaking which causes them to expand and eventually escape through the top of the shaker.
When an excessive amount of air bubbles get mixed in with the booze, they create a foam called “froth” which can cause pressure to build up in your cocktail shaker. Well-made shakers will release this excess pressure when shaken without exploding, while cheaper models will not.
Follow these 10 simple steps and you’ll never have to worry about an explosion again.
1) Don’t overfill
The first and best way to prevent your cocktail shaker from exploding is to not overfill it. The proper amount of ice depends on how hard you’re shaking.
In general, add enough ice so that when you’re finished, there’s 1/2 – 3/4 of room between the top of your liquid and where your hand grips while you shake. If there isn’t enough room for your hand, add more ice (and if it’s too hard or difficult to close and shake with all that ice in there, take some out).
When making Mojitos: Follow these same steps as above but leave even more room because mojitos are shaken long and cold rather than vigorously.
2) Use fresh ingredients
Even if you’re following a recipe and using fresh ingredients, you could still end up with an explosion. The concoction might simply be too strong, or it may contain ingredients that can react when shaken together.
In general, avoid adding ingredients such as tomato juice and hard alcohols into your cocktail shaker; your drink will taste just as good with less risk of filling your kitchen with smoke. What’s more, use ice cubes in your cocktail shaker instead of crushed ice—the former is less likely to cause an explosion.
3) Clean your shaker
Before you start shaking, give your shaker bottle a quick rinse. It’s small, but it could make all of the difference when it comes to preventing an explosion.
Once you get started with your cocktail making, shake gently. After all, too much pressure can cause just as many explosions as not enough pressure can.
Once you’re done with your drink—and while your drink is still hot—pour out any excess alcohol and wipe down both sides of the metal container with a warm cloth or paper towel; again, do not put it in the water! Finally: Cool down those drinks before straining them into another glass!
Related: The 10 Best Cocktail Shaker Set
4) Shake gently
When you’re shaking or stirring your drink, make sure that you do so gently. You want enough force to mix everything well, but not so much that it creates bubbles in your shaker cup.
If there are too many bubbles, they could lead to an explosion. That being said, try not to shake too hard! Excessive force can be just as dangerous as no force at all.
Be careful and stick with an arm strength similar to how you would stir tea—not something you’d use when kneading bread.
5) Add water and shake again if needed
Dumping ice into a dry cocktail shaker will make it more likely for your shaker to leak, so add about two ounces of water when you load your ice. This will prevent air pockets in your shaker that can potentially cause cracks.
Also, make sure there’s no remaining water after you add everything and close it up; any leftover moisture could freeze while it’s sitting in your freezer and possibly cause additional damage. The less time you spend in there, though, is always better!
6) Be careful with hot liquids
Be sure that your cocktail shaker is safe and sturdy before adding any hot liquids. Hot water or steam can cause thermal shock, which is basically when a liquid changes so quickly in temperature that it breaks.
It can happen because of temperature differences or rapid changes in pressure, both of which you have some control over (but not as much as you should). To be extra careful with hot liquids, shake with warm water instead of ice and use an anti-explosion seal.
The important thing here is to know what’s happening inside your shaker—the only way you’ll know if something goes wrong with extreme temperatures is if you pay attention.
7) Check seals and metal parts regularly
If you see any discoloration, blisters or wetness, it’s time for replacement. Even if your shaker doesn’t look visibly damaged, remember that it can still be under stress from wear and tear (and you can’t see internal damage).
Parts wear out in about six months for steel, so if yours are more than six months old, replace them. If you have plastic shakers made by brands like OXO and Zyliss, they may last up to three years with normal use.
Make sure all parts are tightly screwed together before shaking a drink; chances are good there’s a screw loose somewhere that needs tightening.
8) Use the right ice
Most home bartenders use regular ice cubes, but it’s better to use something that melts slower and doesn’t add water. To get crushed ice for cocktails, fill a Ziploc bag with tap water and put it in your freezer overnight. (The plastic makes it easier for you to break up into small pieces.)
Once frozen, put handfuls of ice in another Ziploc bag and hit them with a rolling pin or hammer until they are small enough. If you don’t have any of these plastic bags, just take a big chunk of ice from your freezer and pound away with your hammer until you have lots of small pieces.
9) Chill it well before shaking
It’s especially important for high-alcohol, citrusy cocktails. One way to speed up cooling is by filling your shaker with ice and adding water; shake it up, then pour out half of that ice water (keep those cubes in there) and continue chilling.
The drink should be good and cool after just one or two shakes. If you want it even colder, you can add more ice—but don’t fill it all the way up so you don’t dilute your drink too much.
And of course: Never put hot ingredients into an empty shaker. Instead, let them sit out for at least five minutes before pouring over that ice!
10) Keep it on a flat surface
In addition to preventing any unnecessary wear and tear on your cocktail shaker, keeping it level on your countertop also limits its ability to vibrate, which reduces your risk of overflow.
If you live in an earthquake-prone area or are planning on using your shaker at a party where people will be mixing drinks all night long, consider investing in a cocktail shaker with rubber feet. The rubber grips better than metal and prevents sliding on smooth surfaces like granite.
This creates more friction so that vibrations don’t cause quite as much bounce-around. Because most drink recipes require room temperature ingredients, make sure you store your cocktail shaker away from sunlight—your ice cubes won’t dilute well if they’re melting quickly!
Related: The 10 Best Cocktail Shaker Set
The Danger of a Cocktail Shaker Exploding
The thing is, the pressure in a good cocktail shaker is high enough that the air can’t escape through the top without first pushing the top off, which is what happens in a cheap shaker. So that foam that the cocktail shaker releases could be a danger to the drinker, while also making your drink foam out the side of the shaker and burn your hand.
Here’s what to do to avoid this: If you are only using a cocktail shaker for a one-off cocktail or one of those super fancy drinks where the booze is heated on the rocks, then you might be fine.
But if you use a shaker almost every day, or you shake your drinks to mix them, you are going to want to make sure that it is strong enough to withstand the cocktail shakes you put it through. So how strong should your shaker be?
What Is Froth?
While bar equipment such as mixing glasses can sustain a bit of “foam” when shaken, even the highest quality cocktail shakers will normally not produce significant levels of foam. Foam occurs when small pockets of liquid, such as chocolate milk or sweet tea, sit in air pockets before being blended with ice or alcohol.
These air pockets are called “chocolate pockets” and can be caused by any kind of friction such as using a pick or mixing an open container with a closed one. These pockets are very thin and fragile and when shaken up they expand to tremendous sizes with ease.
Furthermore, any type of storage vessel can provide foamy pockets. Bottles of beer or wine have tiny bubbles around the top to keep the fizzy beverages carbonated. Unused soda bottles can also release tiny bubbles.
When to Stop Shaking?
When shaking is completely unnecessary. Start by stopping shaking all the liquors that have been placed in the shaker. If you still need to shake an extra handful of ice cubes, then do so, but this is the most difficult option.
After emptying all the contents of the shaker, place the top on and shake it a few times to cool it off. It’s Not Always About the Foam Sometimes when shaking a drink, you will notice a difference in how the foam is formed.
Sometimes, your foam will be more foamy than usual and sometimes it will not be so foamy at all. The foam is completely normal and natural, it’s simply a product of the mixing process. If you notice your foam is more dense or foamy, you can simply empty out the rest of the cocktail and shake it again.
How Can I Avoid an Explosion in the First Place?
This usually happens due to faulty shakers and inadequate cleaning. The most dangerous thing you can do is put alcohol in a tight-fitting container without mixing the air bubbles with the liquor.
This can cause the air to rise above the liquor and expand in your drink. While this is the most dangerous, there are other factors that can cause the problem.
If the liquid in the shaker is not properly sealed If the shaker has not been cleaned If you notice any of these situations, take it out of the reach of children or pets and replace it. There are a few things you can do to prevent it, or at least reduce the damage if it does happen.
Aside from not over-shilling your drink, the only other way your cocktail shaker can explode is if you over-fill it with alcohol, no matter how good your mixing technique is. This is especially true if you’re using cheap, disposable shakers.
Make sure you check your shaker thoroughly for loose pieces of paper or coins to avoid any potential injuries. Any questions about how to properly use a cocktail shaker? Do you drink at all? Have you ever wondered what kind of cocktail shaker you have and how it works?
While a cocktail shaker is one of the most useful tools for a home bartender, these tools are pretty expensive and can be hard to find at a reasonable price. Therefore, it’s very likely you will end up buying your own.