A long time before the Boston tin cocktail shaker as we know it today was even invented, the original cocktail shaker had already been invented in South America. It is believed that this early cocktail shaker could be from 7000 BC. However, it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that the cocktail shaker we think of today, became a main stay behind many a bar. Up until this point, the favoured method of making mixed drinks or cocktails was by tossing the liquid back and forth between two glasses – supposedly the shaker was developed when some smart cookie came up with the idea of putting the two glasses together!
The New York Times credits George Foster with the first description of the modern shaker, written in 1848: “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.”
As with all things, many different people got hold of this new cocktail shaker – applying their own tweaks and changes – the result was 3 cocktail shakers that would stand the test of time, evolving from the original concept: the French, the Boston and the cobbler shaker.
The concept of the modern shaker was developed in the United states, this would later be called the Boston and would dominate American bars and cocktail establishments, whereas in Britain we were using the French shaker, later coined the Parisian. The earlier forms of the Boston shaker were simply a tin cup used in combination with a glass or another tin to mix drinks. Even as other forms of shaker such as the French and the Cobbler were noticed, the Boston held its own and maintained its popularity. It wasn’t until the late 20th century that we actually hear this tin and glass combination being referred to as the Boston cocktail shaker.
The evolution of the shaker continued with smaller tweaks and improvements. While early versions were made of tin, sometimes nickel-plated, or sterling silver (for high society), the final significant change came about with the invention of stainless steel. Our own Boston tin cocktail shaker’s are all stainless steel, and with the invention of this new compound came strong and stylish cocktail tins – but also meant they were durable and almost entirely rust proof.
Thanks to the ingenuity behind the Boston tin cocktail shaker, the French, and the Cobbler we can be thankful for the quality of mixed drinks we have today. Without the smart minds behind these inventions, who knows, we may still be trying to mix our drinks by pouring them from one glass to another – over and over again – or even mixing in the mouth like this bloke clearly trying, and failing, to make a lager cocktail: