If your choice of shaker or mixing vessel doesn’t come with a lid that can be used as a strainer, then check out the list of options below.
Do You Need To Fine Strain?
If you’ve shaken your drink with solid ingredients such as berries or soft herbs, you will probably want to strain your drink twice.
Use one of the strainers from the list below to hold back ice and any larger pieces of debris. At the same time, in your other hand, hold a fine strainer above your serving glass so that your drink passes through it, removing any unsightly bits.
Fine Strainer Ideas
Ideally use a tea strainer. No tea strainer? Any size sieve will do! (Just might look a bit weird…)
Serving Spoon or Fork
Find the spoon or fork that best fits the shaker or mixing jug you ended up using. Slotted spoons are the ultimate prize. Remember, the aim of the game here is to hold the ice, and any solid ingredients back, as you pour your cocktail into your serving glass.
As with spoons, slotted varieties are the best. Try and find one that is appropriate to the size of the shaker or mixing jug you used.
Still stuck? A saucer or small plate can be used. Allow a narrow gap between the rim of the shaker or mixing jug and the edge of the saucer or plate, to let the cocktail pour out.
Pro Equipment Guide – Strainers
There are three key types of strainer you need…well, you can get away with just two, but you’re going to want all three.
Each one has a different role when it comes to straining, depending on the drinks-making technique and ingredients being used. Texture is really important in any cocktail, and the humble strainer makes a huge impact on both the texture and look of the final drink.
So, here’s what you need to know:
(Below see Hawthorn strainer in action, double straining and a Julep strainer being used.)
The boss of them all. If you only get one strainer, this is it.
These days there are all sorts of styles, but they all comprise a round perforated metal disc, with a spring and a handle. Some have ‘ears’, some have no ‘ears’ and some even look like the Millennium Falcon! Luckily there are photos below!
WHAT WE SAY:
They’re the most versatile of all strainers. The best ones are made from heavy duty stainless steel, and have a good quality, tightly wound coil / spring.
The tighter the coil the less fragments the strainer will let through. The coil is also there to hold the strainer in place, which should be a good clue as to which way up the Hawthorne strainer is used! This is also what makes the Hawthorne strainer so flexible, as the coil can expand and contract. This means that it can fit a variety of differently sized shaker tins, mixing jugs or any other vessel you need to strain ingredients out of.
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When picking a Hawthorne, feel the balance of it. Some have long, heavy handles that can look very pretty, but are actually very unbalanced when you try to use them.
Some have none, 2 or 4 ‘ears’ – Ears are metal tabs that stick out from the main body of the strainer. These stop the strainer from falling into the container you’re straining out of which, especially in your early days, makes the process of straining a little easier.
If you are using a strainer with no ears, make sure the container you’re straining out of is full of ice, this will allow the strainer to sit atop the ice and again, will make the process easier than if the strainer is falling into the container.
When you’re well practiced, you should be able to strain a drink with one hand only. Grip the tin or mixing jug between your thumb and 3 fingers, with your index finger holding the strainer in place. Then rotate the tin or mixing jug to pour the liquid out over your thumb. Learning to do this one handed means that you can use your other hand to hold a ‘fine strainer’ if required.
The coil can be removed for cleaning, but it can also be used to whip and foam ingredients. Simply remove the coil from the strainer and add it to your shaker with the ingredients you need to whisk, then shake away!
The Julep strainer was originally used to hold the ice and mint back in your cup as you sip your Mint Julep (a classic Derby Day cocktail made with mint, sugar and bourbon, combined with crushed ice and served in a metal tankard).
In modern times, it’s a perfect piece of kit for straining stirred cocktails. Do you need one? Not reeealy…but…
WHAT WE SAY:
The joy of the Julep strainer is that they’re often really pretty, and it gives us an excuse to buy more shiny, pretty tools that we just HAVE to have!
Of course, there are some genuine benefits to having one in your cocktail kit, which is why most professionals will have both Julep and Hawthorne strainers to hand. Firstly, the flow rate through a Julep strainer is higher than through a Hawthorne, which means when you are straining from a heavy-duty glass mixing jug with a thick rim, it will help you pour more cleanly and dribble less of your drink down the side of the jug.
Secondly, and most importantly, the more simplistic design of the Julep strainer means that there are less places for a pip, seed or piece of citrus flesh to hide.Although to be fair, if you have a Julep strainer you will likely only use it to strain stirred cocktails anyway, so you don’t have to worry about ‘bits’ getting stuck in your strainer.
If you don’t have one a Julep strainer, and you don’t rinse your Hawthorne strainer between drinks thoroughly VERY carefully, it’s really easy to end up with a rogue piece of fruit debris floating in your crystal clear Dry Martini. The tiniest of ‘bits’ in a Martini are magnified beyond all comprehension and whether you throw the drink away or have to go in and fish the “bit” out…the mystique is ruined!
Not much more to add, except to say that it’s quite common to see a Julep being used upside down.
Now, it still does the job, but it does look a little odd and uncomfortable. So, make sure to have the curve of the strainer facing into the mixing jug or tin. To make life easier for you, again ensure that there’s LOTS of ice in the mixing vessel. This means that you will be able to secure the strainer with your index finger against the ice, holding it firmly in place.
Like the Hawthorne strainer, hold the mixing jug in one hand (ideally) between thumb and 3 fingers with your index finger keeping the strainer in place.
This is the only strainer that you don’t use in isolation. It is designed as a second line of defence when removing ice chips or unsightly ingredients that a Hawthorne or Julep strainer just won’t do.
Remember that the first sip you take is with your eyes and texture plays an important part of the drinking experience.
WHAT WE SAY:
The fine strainer may look very familiar, even if you’ve never heard of a fine strainer before…That’s because it’s essentially a tea strainer!
So, with that said, a tea strainer will indeed work just fine, however, if you fancy spending a little money, the bar specific ones are even better. They’re usually slightly larger and more conical in shape and that really helps control the flow of liquid through the strainer.
The typical way to use a fine strainer is to hold in place your Hawthorne or Julep strainer with your strongest hand and hold the fine strainer in your other hand. Then simply pour your drink through both these strainers and into your serving vessel.