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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Bartending basics – shaking skills

No twirling and fireworks, just simple basic bartending skills that help you whip up a concoction worthy of a professional bartender.
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - May 29, 2009
By: Wong Wei Chen
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Bartending basics – shaking skills

The next step to setting up a bar at home is to pick up some bartending basics. Before we move on to fancy stuff like flipping your cocktail shaker into the air, while at the same time doing an about-turn, let’s revisit some of the basic stuff.

Five basic requirements

Here are several prerequisites for making good mixtures. To recapitulate briefly, here are the five guidelines:

  • Make sure your liquor is of good quality. As the saying goes: “Garbage in, garbage out”. Not hard to figure this one out right?

  • Use fresh ingredients. Same logic here – go for freshly squeezed fruit juices rather than canned stuff.

  • Chill your glasses. Chilled glasses keep drinks cool longer, and enhance the overall drinking experience.

  • Don’t underestimate the importance of garnishes. They give cocktails additional flavour and make them look good.

  • Measure what you pour. Unless you have years of experience, chances are that you’ll either pour too much or too little of a certain ingredient. Either way, your drink will come out weird.

Shake ’em up

Now let’s move on to more exciting stuff. No pun intended here, but don’t be surprised if your first attempt at shaking your cocktail leaves you shaking with excitement – it’s really fun, and very entertaining especially if you become good at it.

Most cocktail recipes require that the ingredient be mixed in a cocktail shaker. You can choose between a traditional shaker or a Boston shaker. The former is a simple gadget which consists of a metal container (called “bar tin”) with a tight-fitting top covering a strainer that sits snugly on the bar tin.

The Boston shaker is more complicated: It consists of a mixing glass, a larger bar tin and a strainer as well. This contraption is probably harder to use, so beginners ought to stick with the traditional shaker.

When you’ve got your shaker, you’re ready to go. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Put the ice cubes in first. This will chill the container and cool the liquids as you pour them in. Use about five to six cubes per drink.

  • Don’t fill the shaker to the brim. Leave ample room for the ingredients to slosh about.

  • As a rule of thumb, take up to 10 seconds or more to jiggle the concoction.

  • For mixtures with ingredients that do not mix well (such as cream or eggs), shake longer, shake harder.

  • Don’t add fruit to the shaker. Add it only after pouring the cocktail into a glass.

  • To enhance your enjoyment, hum a tune and shake to the beat. Dance a little if you like.

When you’ve mastered the basics, then you may want to consider doing an about-turn while tossing your cocktail high up into the air. But before you try that, get a pail and a mop ready, and best of luck!


Tisshh the season to be jolly. Hic!