The cocktail shaker is one of the most important and essential bartending tools. Any shaken cocktail is supposed to be prepared in a professional cocktail shaker. It helps mix the ingredients, aerate your drinks, and chill them in record time.
Problems arise when you want to shake up a cocktail and don't have a shaker on hand. Can you still make decent cocktails without a cocktail shaker? -Luckily, you can, and there are various alternatives.
Of course, it's better to use a proper cocktail shaker, but other things work, too, if that's not an option. For instance, a travel mug or a protein shaker are two possible substitutes.
But before I explain all the different substitutes for a cocktail shaker, let's look at the characteristics of a professional shaker.
Do you need a cocktail shaker?
That's an obvious yes and no. Yes, because there is good reason why using a cocktail shaker is the best way to shake a cocktail. There are even different types of cocktail shakers available. No, because not all is lost if you don't have one handy.
When shaking a cocktail, two things are critical: aeration and chilling. The shape, the materials, and the size of cocktail shakers make them the perfect tool to shake up mixed drinks.
As most cocktail shakers are made of stainless steel, they absorb the cold from the ice cubes in a flash and chill the cocktail. By that, the dilution in the drink remains at a minimum.
Cocktails with ingredients like lemon juice or egg white also need proper aeration for all ingredients to combine. If the shaker is not large enough, there's too little space for ice and liquid to blend. That typically leads to mediocre or subpar drinks. So, if you have a cocktail shaker at home, don't think twice. Use it for your cocktails.
If you don't have one, the following household items work to mix some pretty good drinks.
Best alternatives for a Cocktail Shaker
Mixing and shaking a drink at home is most fun when using the right tools. But when you don't have them available, you need substitutes that can do the job.
When deciding which tool to use, it helps to check for three things:
- Is it robust, or does it break easily?
- Is it large enough to aerate the ingredients?
- And can the vessel also chill the drink?
You will have a hard time finding a replacement that ticks all the boxes, but there are some items that come pretty close. Here's a list of the best cocktail shaker alternatives you might have at home.
A protein shaker is one of the best alternatives for a cocktail shaker. Instead of shaking your protein powder with the liquid you pour in your cocktail ingredients, add some ice cubes, and shake until the drink is chilled.
If your shaker includes a metal mixing ball, it's ideal for cocktails containing egg white. The mixing ball will help aerate the drink to create a firm and thick foam.
As most protein shakers are made of plastic, they're unlikely to break. The only downfall is that they don't chill the drink as good as a metal cocktail shaker would. But overall, this replacement is very close to a classic Cobbler Shaker.
Travel coffee mug
Another alternative is a travel coffee mug. Especially insulated and double-walled mugs are excellent for chilling cocktails quickly. Another plus is that these mugs shouldn't break when shaking cocktails with ice.
Depending on your mug, the size might be an issue, though. A good shaker needs space for mixing and aerating the ingredients. Therefore, opt for the largest travel mug you have available.
One-way plastic bottles (wide opening)
If you have neither a protein shaker nor a travel coffee mug at home, an ordinary one-way plastic bottle is another possible option. You should choose one with a wide opening since you need to add the ingredients and plenty of ice cubes into the bottle.
A plastic bottle is one of the cheapest solutions, and it's also available at almost any supermarket.
One of the best substitutes for a cocktail shaker is a regular Mason jar. I have been in situations before when a mason jar was my weapon of choice. I was on a trip and didn't bring my cocktail shaker.
Mason jars usually are large enough to aerate your drink, have a leak-proof screw lid, and are widely available. But there's a but…
If the jar is not made of tempered glass, it is prone to break. The sudden change in temperature and the force of the ice cubes hitting the glass could cause it to break.
Now, if you wonder if there aren't also cocktail shakers with glasses, you are right. Boston Shakers often consist of one metal and one glass cup, but they are tempered.
Sealable food container
It might sound strange, but a sealable food container can be a fantastic option. Choose one large enough to hold the ingredients and the ice cubes to ensure everything mixes well.
The container should be of either tempered glass or plastic as you don't want it to break. Typically those containers have some sort of vacuum seal that's also leak-proof.
Using a blender bottle is another method to shake up a drink without a cocktail shaker. The bottles come in different sizes. It's best to choose one between 500ml and 750ml. That will be enough space to mix your drink properly.
The top screw typically has a small lid that lets you pour the drink without the ice cubes. It acts like a built-in cocktail strainer, similar to a Cobbler Shaker.
2 (plastic) cups of different size
Using two cups of different sizes, you can emulate a Boston Shaker. These cups can be plastic, glass, or even styrofoam. You only have to make sure that they won't break and that one cup fits into the other one as that will form a seal.
However, most likely, the seal is not as strong as that of a professional cocktail shaker. Nevertheless, if you shake your drink carefully, it's a viable alternative for a shaker.
How to make a cocktail without a shaker
No matter which alternative you choose for a cocktail shaker, the procedure of making a cocktail stays the same. Always follow these simple steps to nail your drink.
- Fill your cocktail shaker alternative halfway with ice.
- Measure the ingredients using a Jigger or measuring cup and pour them into the shaker substitute.
- Seal your weapon of choice and start shaking.
- Carefully shake your cocktail with a firm grip for 15 to 20 seconds.
- Strain the liquid into a glass and optionally garnish the drink.
Most alternatives are easy and safe to use. But if your makeshift shaker is made of glass, be extra cautious. I recommend only using tempered glass containers. Everything else could break due to rapid changes in temperature and the force of ice cubes from shaking.
Further, you should be extra careful with alternatives that cannot be screwed or sealed otherwise. Make sure that you always have a firm grip on the shaker so that the drink does not explode while shaking.
If you can, get yourself a cocktail shaker set
While the alternatives work great and are super helpful in certain situations, you still may want to get yourself a cocktail shaker set. Those sets are very affordable and contain everything you need to mix, shake, and stir bar-quality cocktails.
A good set will include a cocktail shaker, jigger, bar spoon, and Hawthorne strainer. Some even have a mixing glass and other utensils that come in handy.
A professional cocktail shaker is the gold standard for preparing shaken cocktails. It's simply the best tool to use, and you should only opt for an alternative if there's no shaker in sight.
If you do, choose a vessel large enough for cocktail ingredients and plenty of ice. Ideally, look for something that won't break easily and is leak-proof.
The best cocktail shaker alternatives are a protein shaker, especially one with a metal mixing ball, travel coffee mugs, and one-way plastic bottles.
In case you plan to make cocktails more frequently, look for a solid cocktail shaker set that includes all essential mixology tools.