If you’ve ever tried to make your own cocktail at home, you may have noticed that your shaker gets really cold. This is particularly true if you use one of the three-piece designs that look like metal lunch boxes, but even the stainless steel cocktail shakers will get pretty chilly on your hands over time.
So what’s going on? Is it just an advertising gimmick or does it actually do something to improve the taste of your drink? This article explores ten reasons why cocktail shakers get so cold and how to fix them.
1) Improper Preparation
There are several reasons that cocktail shakers can get cold. The first, and most obvious reason is improper preparation. Cocktail shakers that have been stored improperly, or with ice on top of them will not retain their temperature for very long.
Even if you plan on drinking your cocktails soon after mixing them, you should still give yourself time to shake them up beforehand.
Make sure there is no ice in your shaker before attempting to mix drinks as well; adding ice directly into a cocktail will cool it too quickly, and make for an uneven result once shaken together.
2) Lack of Vibration
When mixing cocktails, use a larger cocktail shaker. Smaller shakers are less efficient at transferring heat from your hands to its contents.
Likewise, you should also be sure that your ice is as large and chunky as possible. This will help it melt slowly and evenly into your cocktail, creating a drink that’s cold from top to bottom.
The same principle applies to ingredients such as fruits or herbs: adding smaller pieces of fruit or leaves will give them more surface area, making them more likely to break down in the shake than if they were whole.
And don’t forget about ice: when placing cubes in the bowl of the shaker, pack them tightly with a spoon – this way they’ll move around less and break down faster when shaking.
Lastly, don’t overfill your glass with too much liquid; leave room for headspace so that when you shake it up, there’s some space for air bubbles – these can add a lot of sparkle or bubbly-ness depending on what type of cocktail you’re making!
4) Improper Pre-chilling
If you’re making a drink that requires mixing with ice, it’s important to pre-chill your shaker or mixing glass before adding your ingredients.
Not only does pre-chilling ensure that ice doesn’t melt prematurely, which means less dilution and loss of flavor, but it also ensures that your cocktail is perfectly chilled from start to finish.
Here are two methods for pre-chilling: Wrap shaker or glass in plastic wrap and put in freezer for at least one hour; soak stainless steel pieces in a mixture of ice water for at least 15 minutes; fill shaker with hot water and let stand 10 minutes.
Alternatively, you can use a wet towel and some ice cubes to create a makeshift ice bath around the shaker.
5) Improper Sealing
The simplest problem for a cocktail shaker is improper sealing. If your seal isn’t tight, you’ll spill half of your drink out of it when you shake. What may be more obvious is that if your seal isn’t tight, then a bunch of extra air is going into it as well.
Air doesn’t freeze, so while these cocktails won’t get frosty inside, they will still get cold — but not nearly as quickly and efficiently as they could have with a proper seal.
Plus, if you shake without an appropriate seal on the container, you’re basically just sloshing the drink around in there without actually doing anything. To fix this: make sure the lid is on properly before shaking or using an ice pick to push down any edges that are lifting up.
If the leak persists after tightening the lid, try adding a layer of plastic wrap before screwing on the top; most high-quality brands come with one built in already.
6) Too Small
Any cocktail shaker that has a capacity less than 12 ounces isn’t going to create enough surface area for ice to contact. That means you need more time for shaking, more energy for shaking, and a higher risk of over-shaking your drink.
The worst part about it? Since small cocktail shakers are harder to find in nice designs, they tend to look cheap and disposable—which makes them even less likely to get used as often as they should. If you have one of these problems, buy a bigger one!
7) Too Much Ice
Adding ice to your cocktail shaker is a great way to cool it down, but if you add too much, you’ll have a difficult time sealing and shaking your cocktail—or worse, it might not seal at all.
While some bartenders recommend filling cocktail shakers with up to half an inch of ice, there’s no set rule for how much is ideal.
The best way to be sure? Trial and error! Try shaking with less or more ice until you find what works best for you. Then try a different brand of metal: Not only will copper chill faster than stainless steel or aluminum, it’ll also transfer heat better when frozen.
8) Not Enough Liquor
The main component in a cocktail is alcohol, so it stands to reason that shakers that aren’t filled up enough are going to lose heat quickly. That’s because when mixing drinks, there are three variables: your base spirit, your modifier(s), and your dilution.
If you don’t add enough of any of these components, it won’t take long for things to get warm. Aim for roughly 2 oz. of alcohol per drink and keep an eye on how much liquid you have left as you go along—keeping track of ounces can be difficult after a few! Better still, invest in a scale.
Too Much Ice: Icing cold cocktails with too much ice will cool them down quickly. Consider adding less ice or switching out cubes for larger pieces to slow the rate at which they melt into the drink.
Old Liquor: Fresh liquor will stay colder longer than old liquor; mixers can also speed up the warming process by giving off moisture into the air.
Be sure to buy fresh spirits and use vodka-based mixers over those made with gin or other high-proof liquors like whiskey or tequila which have more robust flavors that need water to balance them out.
9) Wrong Liquor/Right Glassware
You might think that mixing one kind of liquor with another means you can use whatever glassware you want. Not so. If a cocktail recipe calls for different kinds of liquors, you must use an appropriate type of glass.
A margarita, for example, should be mixed in a cocktail shaker and then strained into a martini glass—never reverse those two things. The martini glass will keep your drink cooler than it would be in any other kind of glass.
It’s also worth noting that the same rule applies when using vermouth as a mix ingredient. Vermouth is high proof alcohol, which is less dense than water and creates more surface area exposure in the glass.
Add this to the fact that vermouth is slightly colder by nature due to its fermentation process and the ice melts more quickly than if you had only used water or soda as mixers; your martini may not last long enough for your guests!
10 ) Forgetting the Ice
The first mistake anyone can make when making a cocktail is adding ingredients into a shaker before it’s been chilled. Adding ice cold water into your ice cold shaker will result in a frosty exterior with warm liquid inside.
Try filling your shaker with ice and pre-chilling it for at least an hour before using it. If you really want that chilled, frosted look, then fill it partially with solidified spirits like Vodka or even Everclear.
The alcohol will act as an insulator keeping everything inside cool while allowing you to avoid diluting your drink with more water or soda (if that’s what you’re mixing). The Ice That Doesn’t Fit: Add cubes of ice that are larger than the opening of the shaker if you have some leftover from chilling the outer shell.
You can also freeze small chunks of fruit and use them instead – which may be preferable if you’re serving a summer cocktail since the fruit won’t melt. Wet Hands + Metal = Bad News: Your hands might be wet from washing them but touching metal causes condensation which ultimately leads to messy drinks.
Always dry your hands off thoroughly before shaking with wet hands again! You could also cover your shaker with plastic wrap between shakes to help avoid this problem. Too Much Water: Don’t add too much water into the mix – especially if it’s not being shaken vigorously enough!
Cocktail shakers used to be made out of cast iron and brass. The heat from the melted ice mixed with the metal could get pretty high. Most shakers today use stainless steel or aluminum.