Cocktail Strainers 101: Hawthorn, Julep, Fine and Conical Strainers

Straining a Cocktail

Photo by Martin Adams from Unsplash

TYPES OF COCKTAIL STRAINERS

Often beginners can become a little confused when it comes to types of cocktail strainers and their purpose. Here you will find brief but comprehensive details on each strainers function and when to use them.

The three types of cocktail strainers:


WHY STRAINER A COCKTAIL?

Experiencing a good cocktail comes down to several main components – taste, aroma and texture. Shaking a cocktail creates texture in a drink, specifically when juice, cream or eggs are incorporated in the recipe. Straining a shaken cocktail then elevates the texture by removing pips, pulp and smaller ice shards.

Straining a stirred cocktail is as important, removing smaller ice shards which will add extra dilution to a spirit-forward cocktail and potentially throwing off the balance that you’ve worked hard to achieve.

WHICH COCKTAIL STRAINER SHOULD I USE?

HAWTHORN STRAINER

Utilise a hawthorn strainer to strain shaken cocktails. Hawthorn strainers are designed to fit snugly onto the top of a metal Boston shaker and the spring allows for greater control when straining.

The size of the parts that are strained out from your drink is dependent on how tight the coils are on the spring of your strainer.

You can also push the strainer forward, forcing the spring to compress into tighter coils and therefore creating a finer strain and removing smaller parts from entering your finished drink.

JULEP STRAINER

Use a julep strainer for stirred drinks. Generally, when stirring a cocktail you will have more ice in your mixing vessel and the mixing glass isn’t as deep as a cocktail shaker so the julep rests on both the edge of the glass and the ice, enabling an easy strain.

Some strainers have a kink in the neck of the strainer enabling it to rest on the edge of the mixing glass and giving more control when straining (see vintage shell strainer).

Do I need both a hawthorn and julep strainer?

If you are getting started on a budget or simply want to carry less items, then a hawthorn strainer can be utilised for both shaken and stirred cocktails – it comes down to personal preference. Most hawthorn strainers are approximately 80mm in diameter so will comfortably fit most mixing glasses and do the job as good as a julep strainer.

FINE MESH STRAINER

The third type of strainer, the fine mesh strainer, is optional. A fine mesh strainer is used in conjunction with a hawthorn strainer to remove smaller particles that the hawthorn strainer is unable to stop (this is referred to as ‘double straining‘). To be honest, I don’t use a fine strainer very often whilst working as I’m usually in a fast paced environment and this refined service isn’t required.

If I was making cocktails at a high end bar when guests are paying top dollar then I’d use a fine strainer but I would be selective with what type of drinks.

An example for when to fine strain would be drinks that contain muddled ingredients and are intended to be served straight up (not over ice) such as a Peach Daiquiri.

Some instances, such as the Whiskey Smash, I prefer not to fine strain as the small parts such as herbs elevate the drinking experience.

Avoid fine straining cocktails that have egg white (such as a White Lady) – it’s counter intuitive as it dissipates some of the froth/foam.

When purchasing a fine mesh strainer avoid the standard shaped mesh strainer (also known as a tea strainer) and find a conical strainer – it’s shape makes it easier and more efficient when straining cocktails.

An 80mm fine strainer is small and ideal for using for one cocktail at a time in a slower paced environment but if you need to strain faster and want to be able to fill the strainer with your whole cocktail (or two) then opt for a 90-100mm strainer.

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Examples of Hawthorn Strainers

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Budget 4 Prong Hawthorn Strainer
Hawthorn Strainer

  • Lose coil
  • Strains fast

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Floral 4 Prong Hawthorn Strainer
Prong Hawthorn Strainer

  • Tight coil
  • More controlled strain
  • Floral patterned

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Baron Hawthorn Strainer
Baron Hawthorn Strainer

  • Tight coil
  • Consistent strain
  • Superior control

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OXO Hawthorn Strainer
OXO Hawthorn Strainer

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Examples of Julep Strainers

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Julep Strainer
Julep Strainer

  • 80mm diameter
  • Fits most mixing glasses

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Copper Julep Strainer
Copper Julep Strainer

  • 80mm diameter
  • Fits most mixing glasses

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Vintage Shell Julep Strainer
Shell Julep Strainer

  • 80mm diameter
  • Fits most mixing glasses
  • Better control

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Copper Shell Julep Strainer
Copper Shell Julep

  • 80mm diameter
  • Fits most mixing glasses
  • Better control

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Examples of Fine Mesh Strainers

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Conical Strainer
Conical Strainer

  • 80-100mm diameter is best
  • Fine strain
  • Smooth pour

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Mesh ‘Tea’ Strainer
Fine Mesh Strainer

  • Fine strain

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Further reading: Barware Buyers Guide

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