Cobbler Shaker vs. Boston Shaker: Which Should I Buy?

Shake off any confusion with a comparison of these two cocktail shaker styles.

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The Spruce Eats / Zackary Angeline

It’s hard to imagine a single bar tool that’s more essential to the creation of delicious and well-integrated mixed drinks than a cocktail shaker. Like a hammer to a carpenter or a bat to a ballplayer, a cocktail shaker is a crucial and indispensable tool to barkeeps of all levels, from the humble home mixologist to the accomplished craft bartender. Many classic and contemporary cocktails—from daiquiris and margaritas to whiskey sours and espresso martinis—simply can’t be made properly without one.

Cocktail shakers serve several important functions: they integrate the drink’s ingredients, they chill the drink to the correct serving temperature, and they mildly dilute the drink’s strong ingredients. But if you’ve spent any time in bars, whether high-end or divey, you may have noticed that there are different types of cocktail shakers that bartenders may employ. The two most common types of cocktail shakers are Boston shakers (the two metal tins, or the tin-and-glass combo) and cobbler shakers (the single unit with the cap and the built-in strainer). Which, you may have found yourself wondering, turns out the tastiest tipples?

The Main Takeaways

Boston Shaker
  • Two metal tins (or one tin and one glass)

  • Straightforward and easy to clean

  • Large capacity for making multiple cocktails

  • Requires a separate strainer

Cobbler Strainer
  • Single unit with built-in strainer

  • Classic, recognizable look

  • Generally smaller with less total capacity

  • Easiest for beginners to master

Can Boston shakers and cobbler shakers be used interchangeably? Which one should you buy? To answer these questions and help you choose between the two (or perhaps lead you to the discovery that you need both), read on for a rundown of how they perform head-to-head in various cocktail applications.

Piña Commercial Boston Tin Set

Piña Commercial Boston Tin Set


Who It's For: This handsome and affordable Boston shaker, featuring weighted bases and made out of stylish stainless steel, is an ideal choice for both professionals and home bartenders who care about volume and versatility. Its large capacity allows you to shake multiple drinks at once, and its simple two-tin construction makes it incredibly easy to clean. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll need to purchase a separate strainer.  Also, learning how to separate the tins after shaking takes a little bit of practice.

Price at time of publish: $25

Materials: Stainless steel | Capacity: 28- and 18-ounce tins | Weight: 558 grams

Cocktail Kingdom Usagi Cobbler Shaker

Cocktail Kingdom Usagi Cobbler Shaker


Who It's For: For the beginning bartender who wants an easy-to-use tool featuring good craftsmanship and a classic design, look no further than this well-constructed shaker from Cocktail Kingdom. It’s a bit larger than some other cobbler shakers, meaning you can shake up to two drinks at once, and its built-in strainer saves you the hassle of buying a separate one. It’s a perfect choice for anyone who wants to start shaking drinks immediately—no fancy techniques necessary.

Price at time of publish: $43

Materials: Stainless steel | Capacity: 28 ounces | Weight: 386 grams

Best for wet shaking

Winner: Boston Shaker

A “wet shake” is when you include ice in your cocktail shaker along with the various ingredients. For most cocktail preparations, you’ll be adding ice to your cocktail shaker along with your spirits and juices (although there are a few occasions when you’ll need to do a “dry shake,” i.e. without ice, as described below). The Boston shaker wins this category, because ice actually improves its performance—as the two tins rapidly chill during the shake, the seal between them becomes even tighter, helping to prevent them from separating while in motion. When it comes to the cobbler shaker, the ice can tighten its seal as well…but this can actually result in them being very difficult to separate once the shaking is through, since they’re already built with a naturally-fitting seal to begin with.

Cocktail Kingdom Leopold Weighted Shaking Tin Set

The Spruce Eats / Kristin Stangl

Best for dry shaking

Winner: It’s a tie!

A “dry shake” omits the ice, and while it may seem strange to shake a drink without ice (how do you get that classic “I’m making a drink here” sound??), there are actually times when this may be necessary. Cocktail recipes that include egg whites, for example, often call for a dry shake first, before a second shake with ice—which allows for better emulsification of the egg whites, and thus a foamier head on the cocktail. Another handy use of the “dry shake” technique is to make fresh whipped cream, e.g. for an Irish Coffee, by simply shaking heavy cream and sugar in your cocktail shaker, without ice, for one to two minutes. The lack of ice on a dry shake means that the extra-tight seal provided by the cold is out of the equation, so there’s more risk of the shaker leaking or flying open. For this reason, many bartenders may find that the cobbler shaker’s smaller size makes it easier to manage, and thus to maintain tightness during a shake. On the other hand, the built-in strainer of the cobbler shaker isn’t the best for egg whites, as it may allow bits of curdled egg through its comparatively larger holes. With pros and cons on both sides, this category results in a tie.

Best for beginners

Winner: Cobbler Shaker

This award goes to the cobbler shaker for several reasons. Its smaller size makes it easier to handle, reducing the possibility of wayward tins flying across the room and sending the cocktail out with it. Its smaller capacity is ideal for a beginning bartender, who’s probably not going to be making a huge number of drinks at a time. It has a built-in strainer, which means that the beginning bartender has one fewer tool to buy. The Boston shaker, while perhaps the go-to choice for professional barkeeps, takes some technique and practice to really get the hang of (especially when it comes to gracefully breaking that seal).

Elevated Craft Hybrid Cocktail Shaker

The Spruce Eats / Sarah Brekke

Best for high-volume bartending

Winner: Boston Shaker

For the same reasons that it’s not the ideal tool for beginners, the Boston shaker is the preferred workhorse for the volume bartender to have at her disposal. Its larger capacity makes it possible to easily shake multiple drinks at once, a must when the guests are getting impatient. It snaps open easily (once you’ve mastered the technique), and there are no caps to fiddle with or seals to get hopelessly stuck together. Finally, it’s easier to clean, so that you’ll be ready for that next round of orders.

Easiest to clean

Winner: Boston Shaker

In the case of shakers, the ease of cleaning has everything to do with design, and the Boston  shaker’s simple cup shape means it’s a cinch to clean with any standard sponge or scrubber.  It also is composed of only two pieces, while the cobbler shaker—with its tin, lid, and cap—has three. (And one of them, the strainer, features a surface with small holes where pulp or other bits can get caught.) For professional bartenders who manually wash their equipment behind the bar, the Boston shaker’s tins fit easily and quickly onto a brush glass washer, whereas the cobbler shaker is a little more awkward to clean in this manner.  (Of course, both Boston shakers and cobbler shakers are often dishwasher-safe, meaning that “ease of cleaning” may be a wash—so to speak—if you plan to mainly use a dishwasher.)

Cocktail Kingdom Leopold Weighted Shaking Tin Set

The Spruce Eats / Kristin Stangl

Should You Buy a Boston Shaker or a Cobbler Shaker?

Determining your shaker of choice is all about figuring out how you intend to use it. If you’re a home bartender who frequently makes only one or two cocktails at a time, and you want to minimize the amount of equipment you have to buy (and techniques you have to learn), a cobbler shaker may make the most sense. But if you frequently make multiple cocktails at once, if you’re hoping to tend bar in a professional setting, or if you just want to look extra cool while slinging drinks, then mastering the Boston shaker is a must.

Why Trust The Spruce Eats?

Jesse Porter is an LA-based wine and spirits writer who has worked as a bartender in two states and three decades. His shake has been described as “flashy but efficient” and “demonstrating physical competence if not necessarily grace.”