Best cocktail shaker experiment – copper vs stainless vs others. Need opinions.

So the question is – What do bartenders consider to be the best material for cocktail shakers. I’ve heard many opinions but one that interests me the most is copper. The apparent reason behind copper being considered the best is because it gets cold faster and therefore there is less dilution. But to me, this is completely contradicting and that is why I want to make an experiment to test things out, and simply find out for myself. If this experiment has already been done, please someone point me to it. Or if this argument is as old as the dead horse you were beating a year ago then tell me. 

I’ve heard several times from various people that they like copper because it gets cold faster and dilutes the drink less. Seems to make sense, right? But does it really? Consider these questions – When all the contents are inside the shaker (ice and liquor etc), what is cooling the shaker? Isn’t it the ice, which is the main source? Then it would follow that the shaker is absorbing the coldness of the cocktail which in turn is absorbing the coldness of the ice. How about if the shaker did not get cold at all? Meaning that it was insulated. Wouldn’t that mean that the only thing absorbing the coldness of ice is the cocktail, and nothing more? Remember, dilution is a side effect of the ice getting less cold (temperature exchange). It’s part of thermodynamics. The coldness of the ice is absorbed by the liquor, which is further absorbed by the shaker. And considering that your hands (heat source) are holding the shaker, it would conduct the heat much faster, therefore adding more heat to the cocktail, which melts the ice even more. I know, there’s enough run-on sentences there to make my grade 12 english teacher piss on my marks. 

To me, it’s the same reason why cooks like copper pots/pans more because of better temperature conduction. The main difference between the two scenarios is that there is a constant/continuous heat source for the pots (the fire) vs a fixed and limited source for the shaker (ice). Though, if you add your hands holding the shaker to the scenario, then you’ve just added a constant (though poor) heat source to the cocktail mixing. 

So chime in! Give me your 2 cents. Tell me what you’ve read/know about cocktail shakers. I’m still designing the experiment. 

About torontofoodlab

Chef of Toronto Food Lab, a GPI division. View all posts by torontofoodlab

9 responses to “Best cocktail shaker experiment – copper vs stainless vs others. Need opinions.

  • Paul Kierstead

    An insulated one is much nicer on the hand :) Anecdotally, my insulated one seems to have less meltage than my non-insulated one. Oddly, my insulated one has a copper finish (faux, or very thin).

    • torontofoodlab

      My thoughts exactly, since in theory, the insulated one would act to decrease the heat transfer between your hands and the cocktail.

      I noticed that some copper shakers only have copper in the exterior, and have a different material for the interior. In which case, the copper only serves an aesthetic purpose, and non-functional.

  • Eva

    Is there any stone shakers? (I know it can be heavy), but that would be interesting….

  • Eva

    cooper on the outside insulates your hand’s heat….no?

  • Ron

    Your results may differ, but I purchased a “copper shaker” at a fairly top shelf Louisville distillery as a useable souvenir gift. Made up a shaker of cosmopolitans (without whiskey, of course), and they came out tasting as if they had been mixed in a mop bucket. Copper is fairly soluble, and it may be that enough element is leaching out of the copper to be obnoxious. Place an old clean penny under your tongue and enjoy. Stainless or glass makes sense to me.

  • Jamie Boudreau

    oops. Just realized I’ve already posted this. Sorry

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