Everything You Need to Know About a Cocktail Drink Strainer

Bartender using Hawthorn drink strainer

When it comes to essential cocktail-making tools, a high-quality drink strainer is a must-have. The ultimate cocktail is smooth and glides down the throat easily. Without a strainer, guests may find themselves swallowing small pieces of fruit or ice shards.

Needless to say, that’s not the experience we want people to have when drinking our lovingly made cocktails!

What is a cocktail drink strainer?

Just as a chef uses a food sieve to make sure the texture and quality of a sauce is just right, mixologists use a drink strainer to pour a perfect cocktail.

It’s quite straightforward really; after mixing ingredients in a cocktail shaker, the liquid is poured through the strainer, into the prepared glass.

Most commonly, the strainer is used to prevent ice from falling into the cocktail. 

Any other chunks that may be floating about in the shaker are also caught before they reach the glass, like food parts.

Different types of cocktail strainer

It may be a pretty simple cocktail accessory but there are actually a couple of different types of drink strainer to choose from. The most popular are:

Julep strainer

aka. the original cocktail strainer.

Bartender using a Julep strainer

In the 19th century, the Julep strainer emerged as the first bar tool designed specifically to separate crushed ice from a drink. According to European Bar School, before the Julep strainer was invented, people were using tea strainers or spoons to hold back ice whilst sipping their drink.

The Julep strainer is made of metal and shaped like a deep spoon, with a short handle, hence the alternative name ‘ice spoon’. It has small holes that allow the liquid to pass through.

Hawthorne strainer

The preferred option for home hobbyists and bartenders alike, the Hawthorne strainer is a much more advanced tool. 

It’s designed to catch even the smallest chunks and shards of ice, using a coiled spring attachment, as well as having the standard holes in its metal head and a nice short handle.

Unlike the Julep strainer, the Hawthorne strainer is flat, making it easier to press firmly against the rim of a shaker and preventing any gaps that might allow for unwanted bits of fruit or peel to slip through. It also comes with small finger tabs around the edges to aid with grip.

Bartender pouring liquid through a Hawthorne drink strainer

There are some variations in Hawthorne strainers, with some having a double strainer functionality, more finger rests than others, larger springs, more holes, or holes in different places.  

How to use a Hawthorne strainer 

First, put the strainer on the top of the shaker or container that you’d like to strain, with the spring side facing into the shaker.

If your strainer has a tab to enable double straining, you can push this down too.

Next, start pouring but remember: the trick to using a Hawthorne strainer successfully is to pour slowly. When we pour too fast, smaller shards of ice can find their way into the final drink.

What to look for in a strainer

If you’re on the hunt for a drink strainer for your home bar, or as a professional piece of equipment, there are a few things to take into consideration:

  • Material - high-quality, food-grade stainless steel is the best for avoiding rust and leaks.
  • Size of the head - ideally, your drink strainer will be large enough to fit over a large cocktail shaker. If your strainer comes in a cocktail kit along with a shaker, you can pretty much guarantee the fit will be right.
  • Spring - is it tightly coiled? The tighter, the better as the closer the coils the more will be filtered out, particularly when it comes to ice shards and herbs.
  • Comfort - the strainer should be comfortable and easy to use, with finger tabs and a short handle. A handle too heavy or long could put the strainer off balance and make it difficult to hold in place. 

The Mixology Crew model of Hawthorne strainer has been specially designed with a tightly-coiled spring, to ensure that even small pieces of fruit and ice shards are trapped. This prevents them from entering the finished cocktail as you pour into the serving glass. We get great feedback on the standard of the strainer, just take a look at our Amazon reviews.

Review of Mixology Crew cocktail strainer

It comes as part of a 7-piece Professional Cocktail Shaker Set that is dishwasher-safe and great for all skill levels. You can buy your kit on Amazon and start practicing the art of mixology!

READ NEXT: 9 Essential Home Bar Tools for Making the Best Cocktails