I can completely understand how someone might be confused by the term “dry shake.” When it comes to making a cocktail, you have liquid in your cocktail shaker when you shake it, so aren’t all shakes wet? You can’t shake air after all, haha. But indeed, there is such a thing as a dry shake, and chances are you’ve seen a bartender do it — you just haven’t realized this is what it is called.
A dry shake is when you shake a cocktail at room temperature without adding ice to the shaker. All the liquids to make the drink are in the shaker, but you don’t have the ice present to chill and dilute it. This is often done when you are making a cocktail that includes egg whites or aquafaba (chickpea water). In order to ensure these liquids become silky and frothy, you dry shake the cocktail first. It is thought that shaking the drink first without ice allows these ingredients to better emulsify, producing a more luxurious foam in the finished cocktail.
After shaking vigorously for 30 to 60 seconds, you then add ice and “wet shake” the cocktail, diluting the drink and cooling it down. That’s the only difference between the two shakes: whether ice is involved, or not. But, if you really want to make your head spin, you can also encounter the reverse shake; this is when a drink is first shaken with ice, and then the ice is removed and the drink is shaken again sans ice. Because it is already chilled and diluted at this point, it is referred to as a reverse shake, instead of a dry one.