I’ve not had a serious opportunity to use many shakers in my testing so far but I can speak reasonably about some of the benefits.
My current shaker is a lovely Boston shaker that was purchased for me at Crate and Barrel for about $20. What makes this model interesting as Bostons go is the rubber seal rim around the glass portion. This makes the seal between the glass and metal a lot tighter and doesn’t rely on the fit of the glass itself. One down side is that the rim is starting to crack after only about 4 months of infrequent use and I’m not sure a replacement is possible. The hawthorn Strainer that I have also doesn’t fit well into the glass making me think it’s a bit more narrow than a standard pint glass you might find elsewhere.
I have a metal on metal Boston purchased by another friend which I have only used once or twice having received both at around the same time. I like having some visibility on what i’m shaking which also means the metal on metal has stayed in the cupboard. I may take the larger half and a pint glass as a replacement if the rubber rim on my crate and barrel job fails entirely.
I had previously a nice metal shaker of a more traditional style with the strainer built into the top. It was fine for myself but once I started mixing for friends it became a hindrance as it was not full sized and could hold at best a third of the volume of my current rig. I would go back to that style again as I enjoy not having to wash an extra tool but it is my understanding from more professional bartenders that this style tends to gum up or freeze shut with prolonged use and can be more of a chore to clean between drinks than a separate strainer.
My next purchase is likely to be a Mason Shaker. At 32oz this monster lets you mix some serious drinks. I attempted to do some larger drinks at a recent convention and I think after 2 servings my current selection simply cannot hold the volumes required. Being fitted to a Mason jar allows for both the built in strainer as well as glass sides to observe the process. It’s not classy by any stretch but it will do when one needs to mix 4-5 drinks at once without having to stop and re-ice your shaker between runs. I can foresee this being a much more two handed affair but at $29 i’m actually impressed with some of the quality i’ve seen.
An insulated shaker may be my next purchase. The loss of heat in the shaking process means wet ice, watery drinks and the like. Instead of having to change ice more frequently or change out shakers for one more recently inside the freezer this option seems like a way to keep the cold where it should be.
All picky business out of the way you really cannot undersell the benefits of shaking over any other method. I have had drinks poured from one solo cup to another and there simply is something magical in the conversion going on inside a shaker.