Cocktail shakers usually are easy to use. Especially Boston Shakers and Tin-Tin Shakers because they only have two pieces. However, to separate a cocktail shaker can be tricky. It might happen from time to time that your shaker is stuck, and you need to figure out how to open it. I know how frustrating the situation is, sometimes embarrassing even when you wanted to play it cool in front of your friends. But honestly, it is just business as usual when shaking cocktails and happens to the best. So let's see how you can open your shaker, why this actually happens, and what you can do to prevent your shaker cups from getting stuck in the first place.
How to correctly seal a Cocktail Shaker
If you close your shaker correctly, it will be a lot easier to open it again after shaking your cocktail. First, put the large shaker cup on the table. Fill it with ice and then your ingredients. Then add the smaller shaker tin or cup on top. Make sure that both form a straight line on one side (see picture). Once your shaker cups are in place, give the upper cup a decent nudge to vacuum-seal your shaker. Now you're good to go, shake your cocktail.
How to open a Boston Shaker
A Boston shaker consists of a tin shaker cup and a shaker glass. I've seen the glass crack more than once when someone tried to open it with too much force. So make sure you're handling your shaker with care when trying to get to your cocktail creation. In the following, I'll assume you're right-handed. If your left-handed, do everything the other way around.
Put the shaker on a table, tin shaker down. Hold the tin shaker part in your left hand and gently tap the shaker with the heel of your right hand. You want to aim for the area where the glass meets the metal to break the vacuum seal. If the shaker is closed accurately, forming a straight line from metal to the glass (see section above), opening it is relatively easy now. Turn the shaker so that the "line" faces you, then tap the side with the heel of your hand. That means, in a 90-degree angle to the position of said line.
If you haven't closed the shaker correctly, it's a little harder to open it. In this case, try rotating the shaker a bit with every tap to find the spot where you can break the vacuum seal.
How do you open a metal shaker?
For a metal shaker, also called Tin-Tin shaker, it's the same procedure as for a Boston Shaker. Here you have the advantage that you need to be less careful as it's almost impossible to break your metal shaker. That helps to break the seal faster.
On the downside, metal shakers tend to get stuck more often than Boston shakers. You want to know why? Just continue reading for the answer.
Why does my Cocktail Shaker get stuck?
There are multiple reasons why a shaker gets stuck. There could be sticky ingredients in your cocktail mixture which "glue" the shaker together. It's also possible that you closed it inaccurately or used too much force to seal it. But in most cases, the reason is the ice. To shake your cocktail, you put plenty of ice in your cocktail shaker. The metal, usually stainless steel, is a super good conductor. That means frost on the outside of your shaker tins. When stainless steel gets cold, it contracts, and you end up with a stuck cocktail shaker.
You see, there's no mistake (usually) on your end. It's simple physics that leads to stuck cocktail shakers.
Why do Cocktail Shakers get so cold?
As mentioned, the amount of ice used in a cocktail shaker and the fact that stainless steel is such a good conductor lead to two things. First, the chilled inside of the shaker causes the air pressure to go down. That, combined with some more complex reactions, leads to a vacuum seal of your cocktail shaker. Second, while shaking your cocktail, the outside of the shaker gets so cold that it contracts and further tightens the seal. Usually, it gets so chill that around 14 pounds of force are needed to break the seal. But that's only in an ideal world. In reality, there may be cases where you need a lot more force to open a shaker.
Now you know how to open a stuck cocktail shaker.
If you still can't open your shaker and there's nobody there to help, there's one more thing you can do. Unfortunately, it means the cocktail you or your guests are looking forward to so much is gone: Wait until the ice melted and the temperature of your shaker is back to normal, then it should be easy to open.
If you had funny stuck-shaker-situations in the past that you'd want to share, leave them in the comments. I would love to read them.