Shaking It Up: Why Do Bartenders Shake Drinks?

why do bartenders shake drinks
Joe | Last Updated: June 18, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

Shaking, stirring, muddling, and mixing are all familiar actions you’ll find bartenders doing when working their magic to create delicious cocktails.

It’s a large part of their role and to the untrained eye it can look a little strange at first, but vigorously shaking a cocktail shaker can seem a little excessive, right?

Is it really necessary and why do bartenders shake drinks? Is it just for show or is their method to the madness?

These are all very reasonable questions to ask and are surprisingly common, that’s why in this post, we’ll explore the reasons why bartenders shake drinks and whether or not it actually makes a difference.

By the end of this article, you’ll know all there is about shaking drinks and its purpose.

So let’s get into it…

Why Do Bartenders Shake Drinks?

There are a number of reasons why bartenders shake drinks that all serve a very important purpose, from temperature control to texture enhancement and more.

Shaking is a technique that is vital in bartending to create the desired outcomes for certain drinks, with many cocktails requiring different methods of shaking.

Below are some of the main reasons why bartenders shake drinks.

Chilling drinks

One of the more common reasons behind shaking drinks is to chill the mixture by adding ice into a cocktail shaker and vigorously shaking the mixture.

The liquid passes over the surface area of the ice which helps to cool the drink incredibly quickly, this is important when serving drinks that have been kept at room temperature.

>> Read more: 8 BEST Cocktail Shakers For Bartenders

why do bartenders shake drinks
Image by Didriks

You’ll often find bartenders serving these drinks into a pre-chilled glass to ensure the mixture is as cold as possible before serving the drink to the customer.


As well as chilling the drink, shaking it with ice also helps to dilute the drink which can bring strong drinks down to a more palatable level.

Often bartenders will shake drinks with crushed ice which helps to dilute the mixture quickly, as opposed to using large ice cubes which are often used solely for the purpose of chilling the drink.

The length of time a bartender shakes a drink mixed with ice will determine the level of dilution, the longer they shake, the more diluted the drink will become.

Mixing ingredients

Shaking is a way to rapidly and thoroughly mix ingredients together in a cocktail to ensure that the flavors are fully integrated and to create the desired taste.

It helps to dissolve sugars, mix juices, and blend spirits together which is important when creating cocktails as they often incorporate many different ingredients.

The vigorous motion of shaking can help release the essential oils from some ingredients such as citrus peels, herbs, and spices.

Creating texture

Bartenders will also shake a mixture to create a specific texture for the drink such as frothiness, this is often done in cocktails that include egg whites as an ingredient.

Shaking allows bartenders to add small bubbles that give the drink a pleasant taste in the mouth as well as a visually appealing appearance.

It’s a way for bartenders to create added effects to drinks that the customer enjoys, and it’s particularly important in drinks that contain thick ingredients such as eggs and cream.


Let’s not forget about the showmanship of shaking drinks, whilst it does certainly have a purpose, it also looks cool and can be used for entertainment purposes.

In flair bartending, shaking, spinning, and flipping drinks is very common and is used to dazzle and entertain guests.

Bartenders may shake the drink behind their head or from side to side which can look impressive whilst also creating a desired outcome such as those mentioned above.

Why Do Bartenders Use Shakers?

A cocktail shaker is a staple bar tool that should be found behind any bar on the planet, it plays a vital function in creating cocktails and is an easy way for bartenders to shake drinks with minimal effort.

The bartender will measure the ingredients using a jigger before pouring them into a cocktail shaker and proceeding to shake the mixture.

It acts as a closed vessel that prevents spillages and allows bartenders to quickly shake drink mixtures so that the customer isn’t waiting to be served for long.

why do bartenders shake drinks
Image by Personal Creations

Shakers come in various shapes and sizes and are incredibly versatile depending on the type of cocktail the bartender is creating.

Boston shakers have an old-school feel and look AWESOME when being used, they’re often made of metal and use a glass pint as a mixing glass, allowing a high volume of liquid to be mixed.

Whereas cobbler shakers incorporate a built-in strainer, allowing the bartender to quickly mix the drink and then strain it out immediately without having to use a cocktail strainer.

Does Shaking A Drink Make A Difference?

Yes, shaking a drink makes a BIG difference in how the finished mixture will taste, its texture, and its temperature, as well as the overall quality of the cocktail.

Bartenders aren’t shaking drinks for no reason, and if it wasn’t necessary they would much prefer not to do it as not shaking drinks would make serving customers much faster during busy periods.

But shaking drinks performs many functions depending on the cocktail as discussed above, from chilling the drink to creating specific textures and more.

If a bartender simply poured all of the ingredients into a cocktail glass without shaking it, the drink would be very inconsistent and likely not taste great.

The heavier spirits would sit at the bottom of the glass which would mean you would get mouthfuls of pure spirit as opposed to a smooth mixture.

How Long Should You Shake A Cocktail?

The amount of time you should shake a cocktail depends on a number of factors, but in general, most cocktails should be shaken vigorously for between 10 and 15 seconds.

If the cocktail contains ingredients that are difficult to blend together such as thick syrups or egg, the cocktail should be shaken for longer to allow enough time for the ingredients to be mixed.

But if the ingredients are relatively light, it’s not necessary to shake the mixture for more than around 15 seconds as this is enough time to create the desired results.

If the purpose of shaking the drink is to dilute the mixture then the size of the ice cubes you use will play a role in how long you should shake the drink.

why do bartenders shake drinks
Image by Adrian Scottow

Larger ice cubes will take longer to crush and dilute the drink, whereas using crushed ice will be much faster and won’t require you to shake the drink for as long.

It’s also important to keep in mind the type of cocktail shaker you use, as Boston shakers will generally require a bit more force than cobbler shakers.

Wrapping Up

To sum up, bartenders shake drinks for a number of reasons including temperature control, texture control, and mixing ingredients together.

Shaking drinks is a very important part of the cocktail creation process, it helps to release flavors from citrus ingredients and dilute drinks.

Whilst it may look like the bartender is just showing off (sometimes they are), shaking drinks performs many important functions that are vital in the cocktail creation process.

So the next time you see a bartender shaking drinks you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the thought and effort that goes into each shake.

Give shaking drinks a go yourself next time you have a cocktail night with friends, it’s fun!

See you next time!