Why Does My Cocktail Shaker Get Stuck? Problem Solved!

Bartending tools seem easy enough to use since they are understandable at one glance. Take the cocktail shaker, for example. The process of using it is simple, one just has to combine all the ingredients in, put the lid on, and mix them up until it is ready to be served. It is what comes after that it can be faulty. It gets frustrating when the components get stuck and risk the mixed drink to be diluted by the ice because of the delay. Nevertheless, it is perfectly normal and should be easy to remedy.  

Why Does It Get Stuck?

Generally, there are two kinds of cocktail shakers. The first one is composed of two parts, a mixing glass, and a shaker tin or sometimes they are both tin and it is used by enclosing the one with the other and then shaking the contents. This kind is known as the Boston shaker. The other type is a three-part cocktail shaker, composed of a body, a built-in strainer, and a cap, all of them are made from stainless steel. It is called the Cobbler shaker. Because this one has three parts and all are metal, it is more prone to getting stuck. If you want to learn more about their difference and another type of shaker, check this article.

There are a number of causes why a cocktail shaker gets stuck. Sometimes, a mixture contains sticky ingredients that can get inside the strainer or the cap, making it difficult to open it up. Also, at times, the body is matched with the wrong strainer or cap and maybe the bartender just forced the parts to assemble so opening the cap or pulling the strainer is going to be a difficult task. 

The most common cause is the metal which is essentially the material which shakers are made of. A mixture of liquors and other ingredients will normally be mixed with ice. Stainless steel is a good conductor and it makes the mixture cold quickly and will create frost on the outside of the tin. When metal gets cold, it contracts, causing the components to get stuck. If action is not taken immediately, it can only get worse and it will be more difficult to separate the parts. Gladly, there are several ways to remedy this situation.

How Do I Fix It?

To prolong the life span and usage of your shaker, it must be taken care of and be applied with corrective measures when it gets stuck.  We’ll discuss the methods separately for the two types of cocktail shakers since they have different levels of complexity. 

Instructions for a Boston Shaker

Since a Boston shaker only has two pieces, there aren’t many complications in terms of separating, especially if one component is glass instead of tin. It doesn’t have a cap, so it is crucial to separate the parts so the drink will be served immediately. If you’re a newbie, it can be intimidating in getting it done, especially if your hands could not tolerate the cold tin. But, constant practice will make it easier. 

  • After shaking, the two parts should be separated immediately, otherwise, it’ll get stuck. The most common way to do it is by tapping the intersection of the two containers against the heel of your hand. If it’s not separated by the first try, tap it again. 

  • If it doesn’t open yet, try twisting the two to loosen it. 
  • The mixing glass should normally be at an angle so if you press your thumbs in the opposite direction, it should separate from the shaker tin. 

  • Sometimes, the tin part is still bendable so if you give it a light squeeze, the glass part will loosen up, ultimately separating the two. 

Instructions for a Cobbler Shaker

Fixing a Cobbler shaker is a lot harder than the Boston shaker because this one has more components and would require more steps to take.  Either the strainer or the cap may get stuck, it’s worse if both of them are but this is rarely the case. Also, you need to get the cap off first to pour the contents into a glass. If you can open the cap and not the strainer, you can still empty the shaker out, but it will be difficult cleaning the shaker tin. But, if you can open the strainer but not the cap, the built-in strainer will be pointless because the cap is blocking it. The bottom line, you have to fix both of the parts. Here’s how you do it. 

  • The first remedy that most people try if either of the cap or strainer gets stuck is to pour some hot water at the lining of the cap or the strainer, depending on which one is stuck. This should warm the tin and cause it to loosen up. This solution is only applicable if the contents are already emptied out, otherwise, the temperature of the drink will be compromised. 
  • The cap is stuck, the strainer is not. At this point, the drink is already served but you had to use a separate strainer. If the cap is very stuck to the strainer, a cool trick to get it out of there is by using barbecue sticks. Here’s how you do it:
      • Stick a couple of barbecue sticks through the holes of the strainer. Make sure the smooth end goes through the holes. 
        • Tie the sticks with a rubber band to keep them in place. 
          • Place a towel on the table to protect it from marks. 
            • Lift the strainer then pound the sticks against the table and you’ll hear a pop, which should mean that the cap is off.
            • The strainer is stuck, the cap is not.  There are several ways to remove the strainer when it’s stuck. First, try tapping the lining where the shaker tin and the strainer meet against the edge of a table. If this doesn’t work, soak the shaker in a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes then transfer it to a bowl of hot water. The temperature change should help it loosen up and do the trick. Another way to use this temperature difference trick is by putting the shaker in the freezer for 5 minutes then take it out. Condensation will then form on the outside of the shaker that should make the strainer come off. 


            The first thing that can prevent a situation like this is to not use mismatched components. Some cocktail shaker sets don’t have the same dimensions and sizes so it would not be wise to use substitutes from a different set. 

            When using a Boston shaker, make sure to not pound on the shaker tin too hard before shaking as this can seal the two pieces super tight, making them harder to separate. And when it’s time that you do, never hesitate. One strong slap should be able to get the job done. 

            If you’re using a Cobbler shaker and the cap is stuck, don’t force it as this can cause a delay. Open it by the strainer, besides, you can still use a separate strainer. And if you are using hot water, use rubber grip pads so you won’t burn yourself. 

            Being a great bartender requires many skills. If you hope to become one, you should be equipped with skills that will solve problems such as fixing a  stuck cocktail shaker. It’s pretty easy and with practice, you’ll be a natural. If you want to learn more about the cocktail shaker, visit this page, you’ll also see some great choices.

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