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How to Prevent Spillage During a Dry Shake

January 16, 2018

Dry shaking can easily be the messiest part of creating a cocktail. Most full-time and home bartenders who take their craft seriously are working with a boston shaker, but it’s really easy to have the tins loosen due to built up pressure, resulting in egg white foam splattering on their shirts and their surroundings. Sound familiar? Here are some tips to prevent that from happening so you can experiment and find the best workaround that fits your style.

What is dry shaking exactly? When making a cocktail that involves egg whites, there’s a general rule to shake all of the ingredients without ice (called a dry shake) before adding ice and shaking it a second time (wet shake). Egg whites are used in cocktails to make a creamy and frothy foam, and this happens when the egg white proteins are denatured (uncoiled) and put back together with air trapped inside. Think of egg white proteins as a long strand of string coiled up and suspended in water. There are certain sections of the string that likes to be near water (hydrophillic amino acids) and other sections dislike being near water (hydrophobic amino acids) so naturally, these proteins bundle together with the water loving amino acids on the outer edges. We can however, uncoil these strands by shaking vigorously, and thus incorporate air pockets as they try to coil back. You can get the best results by leaving out the ice altogether to create the foam and add it later to chill the drink once the foam is already made.

But from our experience, it’s actually pretty difficult to dry shake. Ice is crucial for a Boston Shaker because they chill the inside of the tins which causes negative pressure, pulling the parts closer together. Without the ice, there’s nothing that aids in sealing the tins, and the act of vigorously shaking seems to cause a chemical reaction that releases energy which tends to push them out. If you’re having the same problems, here are some tips that may help.

Add one ice cube during the dry shake

Just having one ice cube in there make a huge difference! Although some may argue that this is not technically a “dry shake”, as long as the cube melts quickly (it’ll melt in the first 10-20 seconds if shaken correctly), there’s nothing left behind that can physically pop all of those air bubbles you worked so hard to create. If a volume of air is chilled, the volume decreases (Charle’s Law for all you chemistry nerds) and thus chills the drink just enough to seal those tins together, which makes it easier for you to continue shaking without having to wipe up periodically. Hands down our favorite fix.

Try the reverse dry shake

Most cocktail recipes will tell you to do the dry shake before the wet shake, but try doing a wet shake before the dry shake. This means, you shake with the ice, strain, and shake the contents again. One caveat for this is that the end result might not be as cold as you want it to be, so play around with it. Some argue that this temperature difference is negligible if you use the same shaker that was chilled from the first step.

Combine the two tins in a straight manner, not slanted

The ultimate reason behind the egg white foam spilling out of the shaking tins is from the gap created. By combining the tins perfectly straight, you minimize the gap. We didn’t have much luck with this method because there’s still pressure that builds up inside the tins that create this gap anyway, but it seems to work for some people so give it a try.


If anyone has other creative ways to combat this issue, let us know! We’d love to hear new solutions to this messy problem.


photo via fine art america

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