What is a Cocktail Strainer?
Simply put, a cocktail strainer is a bartending tool used to remove solid materials from the liquid in the making of a drink. Also known as a bar strainer, the cocktail strainer is typically used after a drink has been shaken or stirred to remove the ice, fruit or other solids that shouldn’t find their way into the resulting cocktail.
Types of Cocktail Strainers
There are three primary types of cocktails strainers; the Hawthorne Strainer, the Julep strainer and the fine mesh strainer. Each bar strainer has its own application, which we’ll address as we get into the details surrounding each type.
The Hawthorne strainer has both strengths and weaknesses depending on your situation, including:
|Better Fit for Mixing Tins||Difficult to Clean|
|Can Adapt to Different Sizes||Easily Damaged|
Overall Hawthorne strainers are pretty inexpensive so price shouldn’t be a major consideration when selecting one. Several other consideration that you may want to considerations are comfort, durability and ease of cleaning.
Three Hawthorne Strainer Options
To help you quickly and eaily figure out which Hawthorne strainer may be for you, we’ve identified three options that we’ve either purchased or would purchase ourselves:
- Winco Stainless Steel 4-Prong Bar Strainer – The is the strainer I currently use. It’s inexpensive and functional, however it’s pretty lightweight and every time I handle it I’m waiting for it to fall apart. But so far, so good. This is a good entry level option.
- OXO SteeL Cocktail Strainer – If you’ve never purchased an ergonomically-designed OXO product, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you have this one in your hand. It’s exceptionally comfortable and it’s effective design will make you look forward to mixing cocktails. Better yet, 98% of all Amazon buyers gave this item at least four stars.
- Hawthorne Bar Strainer By Modern Mixologist – This Hawthorne Strainer balances form with function. It’s an attractive piece of equipment that you’ll want in your home bar. Better yet it’s designed by Tony Abou Ganim (aka The Modern Mixologist) who wrote a book by the same name.
With a bowl-shaped cup perforated with small hole and has a long handle, the Julep Strainer is designed to be easily held over a mixing glass. Once placed over the glass, the strainer is held with the help of a depression when the bartender can apply pressure with their finger.
Although it’s not seen as frequently, the Julep Strainer is a good for most applications:
|Better Fit for Mixing Glasses||Can be Slow|
|Easy to Clean|
Two Julep Strainers to Consider
Thankfully the Julep Strainer is a pretty straight-forward piece of barware, so it’ll be tough to get confused. Regardless here are two options we have or would consider:
- Winco Stainless Steel Julep Strainer – I purchased this strainer as my first Julep Strainer and it works well. Honestly it’s not well made and it feels kinda cheap, but what should I expect for < $5? If you’re budget-conscious, this is a good option.
- HIC Julep Bar Strainer, 18/8 Stainless Steel, 6.25-Inches – When my Winco Julep Strainer gives it up, this will be my go-to. It features a heavier construction and while it costs a little more I think it’s worth it.
Fine Mesh Strainer
Two Strainer Options
Based on our findings, we’ve found little difference between the fine mesh strainers that we’ve encountered. Overall the biggest differences are in the size of the mesh, the comfort of the handle and the size of the strainer. Given our focus on bartending here are two we feel are the best options for a home bar:
- RSVP Endurance Stainless Steel 3 Inch Conical Strainer – This small strainer is comparable to the one I purchased for my home bar about two years ago. To date its done a good job and overall it was a cost effective choice.
- OXO Fine Mesh Cocktail Strainer – As previously mentioned, our experience with OXO has been good. Overall buyers of this strainer state that it’s surprisingly strong and stands up to extensive use.
Hawthorne Strainer vs. Julep Strainer
There’s always been some debate about which is better, the Hawthorne Strainer or the Julep Strainer. In our opinion it’s not much of a question; while each has its strengths and weaknesses, cocktail strainers are so inexpensive that you should buy one of each. However, if you’ve got to pick only one it will depend on your situation:
Julep Strainer for the Beginner
Hawthorne Strainer for Most Flexibility
Fine Mesh Strainer for Seriously Smooth Drinks
Whatever your choice, pick one and you’ll find that you’ll have your straining technique established in no time.
How to Use a Cocktail Strainer
Once the necessary ingredients are present and mixed, you may not quite understand the next step. Check out this video from A Bar Above where Chris explains How to Use a Cocktail Strainer;
Creating a proper cocktail is not complicated, but a good cocktail strainer will make all the difference in the world. It’ll help produce the ideal consistency, mouthfeel and flavor to give you the best possible drink. So whether you start with a Julep Strainer to get your technique down, or jump right into using the Hawthorne, you’re sure to love the results.