Introduction: 5 Minute $5 Cocktail Shaker

About: I'm just a guy that knows stuff about things.

One of my favorite side hobbies is mixing cocktails.  I run a cocktail blog, mix up quite a few recipes and, as such, get asked to bring cocktails to lots of events.  When I'm asked to bring cocktails I pack up the appropriate ingredients and all the necessary tools and off I go.  The tools piece got me to thinking.  A cocktail shaker that doesn't suck is an essential piece of a good cocktail tool set.  And, honestly, it's the only piece that you likely don't already have in your kitchen.  The cheap shakers that you find are generally crappy.  They leak, they're awkward, definitely non-optimal.  More expensive shakers solve those problems, but are costly enough as to put folks off of picking one up on a whim.

Enter the 5 Minute, $5 Cocktail Shaker.  You can make your own quality cocktail shaker in a few minutes from items you may already have floating around.  And, worst case, if you buy everything it'll be less than 5 bucks.  The great thing about this shaker is it lets you bring cocktails to a friend's house and leave the shaker with them.  Spread the cocktail goodness far and wide!

Step 1: Materials and Prep

Let's get started.  Here are the materials and tools you need to collect.

  • Drill
  • 1/8" Drill Bit
  • Center Punch (or a nail)
  • Round Needle File [Optional]
  • Wide Mouth Mason Jar (1 quart is best)
  • Two Wide Mouth Jar Lids
  • One Wide Mouth Jar Ring

Some thoughts about the choice of materials and tools:

Jars - Make sure to go with a Mason jar.  The brand you choose doesn't much matter, there are even some cool antique ones out there.  The reason you want a Mason (AKA canning jar) is because you can buy replacement lids and bands, which we're going to make use of.

Drill Bit Size - I opted for an 1/8" bit for my strainer lid mainly because it's large enough to allow good flow while still stopping floaty bits like juice pulp.  If you find a better size or, for that matter, combination of sizes I'd love to hear about it.

Round Needle File - You'll need this to finish off the holes, but it's not 100% required.  You could also use sand paper or even a pointy rock in a pinch.

Prepping the lid for drilling:

This step is semi-optional, but very much encouraged.  Take your center punch or nail and tap indents at each place you want a hole drilled.  For mine I spaced the indents about 1/4" apart and filled the bottom third of the lid.  Following that make 2-3 holes at the top of the lid to allow air to flow in.  This will make the strainer pour much easier.  Check Step 2 for a picture of my hole pattern.

Step 2: Drilling

Now for the easy, but repetitive, part.  Load up your drill and start drilling each hole you punched in Step 1.  I found that a faster bit speed made for cleaner holes with less burrs that I had to file down after the fact.  The picture shows my chosen hole pattern after I completed the drilling.  There isn't much science behind the pattern itself, so go with whatever you like.

Step 3: Finishing

Nearly complete.  Now it's time to quickly file away the burrs left from drilling with the round file (or pointy rock).  You don't have to get every hole perfectly smooth, but you do want to get any burrs that even slightly loose off of there.  Despite what you may have heard, tiny metal bits don't make the cocktails better.

You think you're done?  You've only just begun!

Step 4: Cocktails!

That's right, your work has only just begun.  Now it's cocktail time.

To test out the build, as any good craftsman does, I chose a classic cocktail that I love, a Whiskey Sour.  Simple, but amazingly tasty.

Whiskey Sour (Cocktail Hacker Recipe)

2 oz Whiskey
1 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
1 Fresh Egg White [Optional but super tasty]
2 Dashes Fee Brother's Old Fashioned Bitters*

1) Combine ingredients in your new shaker without ice
1a) Put the solid lid on the shaker and screw down the band
2) Shake for 10-20 seconds to foam egg white
2a) Remove lid and band
3) Add ice to shaker
3a) Replace solid lid and screw on the band
4) Shake until thoroughly chilled (about 30 seconds)
4a) Remove the solid lid and band
4b) Put the strainer lid on top.  You don't need the band, but can use it if you like.
5) Strain in to an Old Fashioned Glass

So there you have it.  A cocktail shaker you can whip up in a few minutes for an even fewer number of dollars that also works great.  Enjoy your cocktails.

*You can also use any other bitters you like.  Angostura can be had in almost any grocery store and make a great addition.