How to Hard Shake

hard shaking a cocktail
Matthew Kelly/Supercall

The hard shake is difficult to master, beautiful to watch, and very Japanese. It takes patience, persistence and years of practice to develop your own version of the technique. Its only true practitioner is master bartender and author of Cocktail Techniques Kazuo Uyeda, who also happens to have invented it. Uyeda says unlike Westerners, who “focus on results” rather than the artistry of craftsmanship, Japanese bartenders “look closely at the way a cocktail is made and the effort that went into achieving a good taste.” The hard shake certainly requires effort, but it also produces results. A well executed hard shake controls dilution and increases aeration.

We, like you, are only just starting to learn how to hard shake. So, for our tutorial, we tapped an expert. Eben Freeman, beverage master of AvroKO Hospitality Group and head bartender at Genuine Liquorette in New York, is one of the few Westerners to perfect a version of the hard shake. He was trained in the technique by Uyeda’s apprentice, Stanislav Vadrna.

But before we dive into the step-by-step instructions, it’s time to get warmed up. Freeman recommends practicing these exercises prior to attempting the hard shake:

Work on your stance. When you perform the hard shake you will be in a boxer’s stance. In this stance you should have balance and mobility and be able to transfer weight from one foot to the other as you shake. Take a few moments to plant your feet and get comfortable in your stance.

warming up for hard shake
Matthew Kelly/Supercall

Practice snapping your wrists. The key movement in the hard shake is the wrist snap. Place your hands together, fingers upwards, with your thumbs to your nose. Then, Freeman instructs, “rotate your wrists until your middle finger is pointing at your nose, and then rotate it in the opposite direction so your middle finger is pointed directly away from you." Keeping your hands together, snap your hands forwards and backwards, using only your wrists, while keeping your elbows high and your shoulders down. “To increase your strength, imagine a piece of wood that you’re chopping and the force that you would need to use to snap it,” Freeman says. “The snap is key.”

Now that you’re all warmed up, let’s learn how to hard shake.

Cobbler Shaker
Large cubed ice

Holding a shaker
Matthew Kelly/Supercall

Step One: Prepare to Shake

Fill the shaker with your cocktail and ice and seal properly. Hold your dominant hand flat and place the cobbler shaker on to it on its side, with the top of the tin facing you. Roll your fingers up to cup the bottom of the shaker and let your thumb sit along the side. Place your other thumb on the cap of the shaker and let that hand fall naturally to grasp the tin to secure the cap and top of the shaker. Ready yourself in your stance. Raise your arms so the tin is parallel with the floor and level with your chin. Your elbows should be high and your shoulders should be relaxed.

perfecting snap for hard shake
Matthew Kelly/Supercall

Step Two: Perfect Your Snap

Snap your hands forwards and backwards, using only your wrists. The tin should whip back and forth, while your elbows remain still and motionless. When your snap is done correctly, you can hear a change in the sound of the ice clanging in your tin. Once you have perfected the snap with the shaker, relax your arms and find your own rhythm.  

bartender finding rhythm while hard shaking
Matthew Kelly/Supercall

Step Three: Find Your Rhythm

Now it’s time to really get moving. "Try to find within your own body a way in which you can shake in a rhythm which creates the figure eight,” Freeman says. For us, this is a combination of three positions: in front of your face, at the collar bone and below the heart. Snapping your shaker with your wrists, alternate between these three levels. Get your body into it and begin to alter the angle of the shaker to agitate the ice cubes and change the direction in which they are being thrown. This should create a rolling effect inside the tin, which, ideally, will cause the ice in your tin to create what is known as a “figure eight” in the liquid. Think of when you are whipping egg whites: You are folding the head and the tail of the whites together to introduce air into the mix and create a frothy consistency. A true hard shaking pro will wind up with rounded ice, as the shaking technique will polish off the corners of the ice cubes rather than breaking them. The finished drink should have a fine layer of shaved ice shards on the surface.

Eventually, you will find your own rhythm and create your own version of the hard shake. Just keep practicing (and enjoying the fruits of your labor).