If you've got a cocktail shaker and some heavy cream in your kitchen, you're just a few minutes away from having fresh whipped cream, says Brian Means, the corporate lead bartender and mixologist for Michael Mina's Mina Group of restaurants.
The secret ingredient to this technique? Good old-fashioned elbow grease as you shake for a minute or two.
"You're really whipping that shaker," he explains, "Think like if you're almost throwing a baseball or a football and then you're pulling back hard, because you really want to get air incorporated into that cream, like whipping it around. Think if you had a golf ball or a marble inside that shaker and you want to whip it around to almost create an oval or a circle inside that tin. You're trying to get more and more air into it so that'll speed up the time that it's going to go from a liquid cream to a heavier cream."
It can even be part of your regular fitness routine.
"It's a good arm workout," Means notes. "That's your reward. You're shaking, making some cream, and hopefully at the end you'll reward yourself with a cocktail — it's perfect!"
This trick also works with a Mason jar if that's all you have, but a shaker offers a superior result.
"Shakers are great cold conductors and can chill down faster to help the cream change texture faster," he says. "You can chill down the tin prior to shaking it and it'll turn into whipped cream faster and have a stiffer texture."
Some bartenders suggest adding a cocktail shaker spring to the mix, but Means prefers leaving it out, as finds he gets the same texture with or without it.
If you want to flavor or even spike your whipped cream, Means has some advice learned from a lot of trial and error. Rich syrups made with a two-to-one ratio of sugar to water are his best bet, but simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) will still work. He suggests using four to six ounces of cream to 1/2 to 3/4 ounce of your syrup base if you want to noticeably change the flavor of the cream. Go-to add-ons to try include cinnamon or vanilla syrup.
As for using alcohol, "I would definitely say stay away from things that are, like, 40 proof," he says. "Liqueurs are great because they have a higher sugar content, which will obviously sweeten up your cream, but it'll help keep the cream very consistent in texture and flavor." He suggests using high-sugar content liqueurs; one of his personal favorites is to use Nocino, a liqueur made from green walnuts.
Shaking up a batch of fresh whipped cream is an easy first step to widening your creative possibilities.