- written by Kevin Gray
Despite all the fresh ingredients going into your cocktail, many times you want to keep certain items in the shaker and out of your drink, like ice or muddled fruit. This allows the finished cocktail to be clean, crisp and free of debris. Enter the strainer, one of the most utilized bar tools in the bartender's arsenal.
Strainers come in many shapes, sizes and varieties and include cocktail strainers (also called wire strainers or hawthorn strainers), julep strainers and fine mesh strainers. The cocktail strainer is one of the most ubiquitous tools behind the bar and is the most commonly used strainer by bartenders. It is thin, flat and circular, with stabilizing prongs and wire rings that fit snugly into the top of a shaker or mixing glass allowing it to strain liquid away from the ice while pouring into a glass. It is most commonly used with a Boston Shaker, as opposed to shakers with built-in strainers.
Julep strainers are like perforated metal spoons, and instead of fitting onto the top of a shaker like a cocktail strainer, julep strainers fit inside your shaker. Held inside the glass at an angle, this strainer allows you to pour liquid while keeping ice from entering your glass. Originally used as a means to keep crushed ice away from sensitive teeth while drinking mint juleps, the julep strainer is now commonly used in the same way as cocktail strainers.
Certain drinks, especially those containing muddled fruit or any cocktail you want especially clean and crisp, require double straining. The double straining technique utilizes a cocktail strainer along with a fine mesh strainer. Simply pour your drink from the cocktail strainer through the fine mesh strainer and into your glass. The mesh strainer acts as a sieve, catching small chunks of fruit or bits of ice that slipped through the original strainer.
Drinks that call for double straining include fruit smashes and fresh fruit martinis.
So the next time you're playing home bartender to your friends, try your hand at straining cocktails. Your guests will be impressed with their clean, well-crafted drinks, and you'll add a very useful skill to your bartending repertoire.
Kevin Gray is the editor of Cocktail Enthusiast, a cocktails and spirits blog exploring drink recipes, liquor reviews and drinking news.