The Mysterious Origins Of The Boston Cocktail Shaker

Cocktails, in the grand scheme of things, are a new invention when compared with the ancient art of wine, beer, and mead-making. We didn't always have the kinds of spices, punches, and liqueurs we've gained access to in the past few centuries. As our drinks evolved, we needed tools to perfect our cocktails, and one of the most important tools invented for the American bartender was the shaker.

The history of the cocktail shaker may surprise you. Humanity has been obsessed with mixing drinks — though not necessarily alcoholic beverages — for thousands of years. Mental Floss claims that the people like the Aztecs living in pre-colonial Mexico and South America used hollowed gourds to shake native spices into drinks to enhance them. It seems like no matter the era of human history, people will always look for ways to shake things up! But today, American bartenders have strayed away from using gourds to mix drinks and instead use a particular kind of shaker.

Who really invented the shaker?

The Boston shaker, named one of the first official shakers to be invented by Tales of the Cocktail, is speculated to have been introduced in the mid-19th century and used a combination of a glass and a metal tin cup to mix some of the United States' first cocktails.

The New York Times says that one of the first descriptions of a shaker was written in 1848 when New York Tribune reporter George Foster said of a bartender, "With his shirt sleeves rolled up, and his face in a fiery glow [he] seems to be pulling long ribbons of julep out of a tin cup." According to the Times, the trendy American invention eventually spread to Europe, where another variation, the Parisian shaker, was created.

In the 1920s, the simple Boston shaker design was improved upon by the adoption of stainless steel and has remained unchanged since.

We may never know who truly invented the Boston shaker first, but the method of use for this mixer has remained consistent for over a hundred years. The Bar School's theory regarding the Boston shaker comes down to mouthfeel and flavor. They believe that stainless steel is key to a cool and smooth drink. By shaking an ice-filled Boston shaker vigorously, the cocktail will chill and become slightly diluted. The site insists that how long and hard you shake the Boston shaker affects the quality of your cocktail, so play around and figure out what works for you!