Types of Cocktail Strainers and How to Use Them
In mixology there are 3 main types of cocktail strainer; the Hawthorn, Julep and Fine strainers. Each one has its own benefits, uses and variations. Here we will take a look at these 3 cocktail strainers and how and when to sue them.
What is a Cocktail Strainer?
The best place to start, lets define what a cocktail strainer is. The clue is in the name; this essential bar tool strains a cocktail as you pour it from a shaker or mixing glass in to a drinking glass.
Many cocktail recipes require ingredients to be mixed in a cocktail shaker with ice. To ensure ice cubes or chunks don’t enter the glass, a strainer provides a barrier for these large ingredients while allowing the liquid to pour out.
Similarly, solid ingredients such as herbs or fruit get muddled in a shaker tin to release extra flavour. It is not desirable for these bruised raw ingredients to land in the drinkers glass, so a cocktail strainer keeps them in the shaker.
The 3 Types of Cocktail Strainer:
The most common cocktail strainer is the classic hawthorn.
The most recognised design, this strainer features holes in the head and a spring around the outside. A Hawthorn cocktail strainer will often feature “ears” on the sides to help keep the strainer in place on top of a shaker tin.
The head of a Hawthorn strainer is smaller than an average shaker tin, with the spring designed to fit snugly inside the opening. If a Hawthorn strainer has ears, these will keep the strainer in place.
Ears or No Ears?
If a Hawthorn strainer has no ears, it can be more awkward to hold in place. A no-eared cocktail strainer is best used by experienced bartenders.
The tight coils of the spring are flexible. As the spring brushes against the inside of a shaker tin it can emit a pleasant tone. If you incorporate a show in to your mixology, then this extra audacity may be a nice addition.
Perfect for all experience levels, a classic 2-ear Hawthorn cocktail strainer is essential for any cocktail kit.
The Julep cocktail strainer has a unique history, starting out as a strainer served with cocktails.
Before straws were regularly available in bars, this curved cup was served on top of a cocktail filled with crushed ice. This strainer acted as a barrier between the ice and the drinker, ensuring every drop could be savoured without ice pouring everywhere.
As the Julep strainer essentially started life as a garnish, it soon became a decorated item, with silver plating being common. The rounded shape lent itself well to a scallop shell design, which was applied to many julep designs which are now antique and collectable.
A Julep cocktail strainer features a round head with sides curved up in to a small bowl shape. The head has perforations to allow the flow of the cocktail.
Not originally designed as an all-round cocktail strainer, the Julep can be difficult to use for beginners due to the lack of “ears”.
Sometimes known as a Fine Mesh Strainer, this cocktail strainer works alongside a Hawthorn or a Julep for a smoother finish to cocktails.
The Fine cocktail strainer looks like a tiny sieve, with a conical fine wire mesh in the head. This tight mesh ensures any seeds or other small parts don’t enter the drink from the cocktail shaker.
Some fine strainers have a small ear on the end opposite the handle. This stabilises the strainer for placement on top of a glass without needing to hold it.
A Fine Strainer acts as a 2nd barrier for cocktails and works in conjunction with either a Hawthorn or Julep strainer. The Hawthorn or Julep sits in the shaker tin or glass as normal, and the drink pours in to the glass through the fine strainer. The term for this is “double straining”.
The obvious benefit is to catch tiny parts of fruit, pulp and seeds which would impair the texture of the cocktail. Likewise, any small chunks of ice that might slip through a normal strainer will get caught at this stage. This ensures the cocktail has minimal dilution.
Some mixologists state that a fine strainer removes any aeration that occurred during the shaking process. They argue that this results in a smoother drink.
A highly useful addition to a mixologist tool kit, but can be fiddly to manage. Beginners can get by without one.