A cocktail strainer plays a vital role in cocktail preparation. Most mixed drinks you make in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass need to be strained.
Many popular cocktail recipes call for ice and other solids, so it's necessary to have a cocktail strainer to prevent these from getting into the drink. But it's important to learn how to use a cocktail strainer before you prepare your mixed drink. Keep reading to learn how to use one and our recommendations on the top 10 strainers.
How to Use a Cocktail Strainer
A cocktail strainer is a sieve that removes ice and other solid ingredients from a cocktail as the bartender or mixologist pours it into the serving glass. The drink maker places it over the mouth of the glass or shaker with the ingredients.
The drink strainer has holes that only allow liquid to pass through, trapping ice in the mixer. You’ll want to master the technique of using a cocktail strainer before you get your bartending license. There are three common types of cocktail strainers: a Hawthorne strainer, a Julep strainer, and a fine mesh strainer.
The Hawthorne strainer is probably the most common and recognizable cocktail strainer. You'll find Hawthorne strainers included among many commercial and home bar accessories.
It takes the form of a disc with a handle and two or more stabilizing prongs. There's a metal spring fixed on the edge of the rim to roll inward and fit inside bar glasses.
It eliminates the need for the strainer to make contact with the glass rim. The glass has a spring inside that filters out the ice and other solid ingredients.
The Julep strainer is the original cocktail strainer that first appeared in the mid-1800s. Bar patrons used them when they enjoyed a refreshing Mint Julep to control the ice flow. A high level of customer satisfaction made it the precursor to the modern drink straw. That’s also where the strainer got its name.
A Julep has a bowl-shaped cup perforated with small holes and a long handle. The strainer fits tightly into a shaker or mixing glass, permitting the liquid through the holes or slits in the bowl.
It offers a good fit for almost any mixing glass. It's also durable and easy to clean. Bartenders in the 19th century invented drinks you find in the best cocktail recipes books using a Julep strainer.
Fine Mesh Strainer
A fine mesh strainer is typically held beneath a Hawthorne or Julep strainer to catch anything that passes the first one. Tiny shards of ice and bits of fruit can slip past the initial strainer. A fine mesh strainer provides an additional filter to catch them.
Fine mesh strainers are usually inexpensive, available in various sizes, and can strain hot tea and a few other goods. This makes it a practical item to include in your mixology set.
Top 10 Cocktail Strainers
We've researched and compiled a list of the top 10 cocktail strainers based on their durability and effectiveness, then organized it by the three types. We'll provide you with recommendations for the best Hawthorne strainer, then reveal the best Julep strainer and fine mesh strainer.
If you’re a bar owner or have your mixology certification, you want to use the best strainer to serve your guests smooth cocktails. It can boost bar profitability and build customer loyalty for your establishment.
Best Hawthorne Strainer
1. OXO Steel Cocktail Strainer
This cocktail strainer from OXO has an ergonomic design that makes it a good tool for straining. It comes from durable stainless steel and effectively strains ice, fruit, and other solid matter to produce pure cocktails.
It offers a soft, non-slip finger rest and a comfortable handle for providing the optimal pouring experience. The raised lip prevents liquids from dripping down the sides of glasses. The size is perfect for any mixing glass and makes it easy to store when not in use.
2. Cocktail Kingdom Koriko Two-Prong Hawthorne Strainer
This is a Hawthorne strainer from 18/8 stainless steel. It's durable and perfect for heavy-duty use. It has a tight coil that makes it easy to do a split pour.
Bartenders and mixologists trust this strainer for its strength and ability to filter ice and fruit pieces. Some cite it as the perfect example of an industry-standard drink strainer.
Cocktail Kingdom’s strainer is perfect for use with many types of alcohol and ingredients. It fits large and standard mixing glasses and is easy to handle.
3. A Bar Above Hawthorne Cocktail Strainer
A career bartender designed this cocktail strainer, so that's why we recommend it for professional bartenders. This ergonomic and sleek strainer comes from polished food-grade 304 stainless steel, providing durability for high-volume cocktail bars. It has tightly-coiled springs for straining the tiniest ingredients, including ice chips, citrus pulps, and fruit seeds.
A Bar Above's Hawthorne strainer offers the ideal grip and weight, ensuring that your cocktail-making is a fun experience. It has a finger rest on the back rim for added comfort and stability.
Furthermore, it's lightweight and has a patented cut-away design that reduces abrasion against the side of your hand. You should be having fun when making cocktails, not worrying about damage to your hand.
4. Winco Stainless Steel Four-Prong Bar Strainer
Winco's wire string strainer has four prongs for easy pouring. It's reasonably priced and offers coils that are sturdy yet soft enough to fit cocktail shakers, tins, and mixing glasses on their own. It comes from high-quality stainless steel for added durability but isn't too heavy to handle.
This four-prong strainer features a removable spring for easy replacement. Its four prongs contribute to the effectiveness of its design by offering support and promoting easy pouring. Winco's Hawthorne strainer is also a budget-friendly choice that you can clean in the dishwasher.
5. Cocktail Kingdom Buswell Four-Prong Hawthorne Strainer
Cocktail Kingdom's four-prong Hawthorne strainer comes from 18/8 stainless steel and offers a beautiful gunmetal black finish. It has a tight coil for heavy-duty use, and it fits most large and standard mixing glasses.
It's versatile but also practical, making it easy for drink makers to strain. There's no need to worry about ice, fruit, and other solids making it into your drink.
We recommend this one for home bar use as it's easy to handle and perfect for making a low volume of cocktails. It's easy to master with its heavy four prongs and provides stability for pouring. Whether you're a beginning bartender or a certified mixologist, this tool provides everything you need to make delicious cocktail drinks.
Best Julep Strainer
6. Barfly Scalloped Julep Strainer
Barfly's Julep strainer comes from heavy-duty stainless steel to provide maximum durability. It resists pitting and corrosion and has an optimal design with a perforation pattern for fast draining. It's easy to clean and safe for your dishwasher.
This Julep strainer is ideal for your home bar collection, especially for cocktail shakers. The spring design is closer than other strainer brands, a feature that helps block ice shards and fruit pieces from getting through. It costs a bit more than bargain options, but is worth it if you're serious about mixology.
7. A Bar Above Professional Stainless Steel SS304 Julep Strainer
Perfect for a commercial or home bar, A Bar Above's Julep strainer comes from sturdy SS304. It has a simple but stylish design that gives it the perfect weight and feel.
A Bar Above designed this piece for ergonomics and efficiency to handle the busiest cocktail bar. It has an oval shape to fit any cocktail shaker, mixing glass, or pint glass. The handle is solid, comfortable, and polished for a stylish look.
It's a comfortable option for straining your drinks without holding up service at your bar. You can also choose copper and gold instead of stainless steel to match your bar layout.
8. Crafthouse by Fortessa Julep Strainer
Many bartenders and mixologists, especially beginners, love this Julep strainer for its indented handle. It provides a comfortable and sturdy grip for pouring that won't allow your hand to cramp up.
It comes from heavy-duty stainless steel for reliability and has an oval shape to fit mixing and bar glasses. Professional bartender Charles Joly designed this tool with hospitality industry colleagues in mind.
Joly added an opening on the head big enough for a drinking straw or for adding herbs. It measures six inches long and is safe for cleaning in the dishwasher.
Best Fine Mesh Strainer
9. Viski Stainless Steel Mesh Cone Strainer
Viski's stainless steel cocktail cone separates liquid from ice and food particles. It accommodates a full drink in a single pour and offers a size to fit mixing glasses of any capacity. The total length measures 9.25 inches.
This tool works effectively at sifting out any solids that try to reach your drink. You can fit it under any Hawthorne or Julep cocktail strainer for a double strain to produce delicious cocktails.
Many professionals like its deep cone and wide-mouth construction, but it’s also suitable for beginners. Add this mesh strainer to your bar collection, then grab one of your favorite cocktail books and start mixing.
10. OXO Steel Fine Mesh Cocktail Strainer
OXO's stainless steel fine mesh provides a mixology tool with durable, double-welded construction that stands up to regular use. It efficiently strains ice, fruit, and other chunks for a clean and smooth drink.
The mesh bowl’s edges have heavy chrome stainless steel, protecting it against scratches and warping. The strainer has a soft, comfortable non-slip grip that supports your hand when pouring. Its conical shape provides a large capacity for straining, and its three-inch diameter prevents spills and drips.
OXO's bar tool is also effective with tea, coffee, and citrus juices. It gives you the versatility and performance you need from a cocktail strainer.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cocktail Strainers
Why Do Cocktail Strainers Have Springs?
A Hawthorne strainer has a flat disc with a coiled spring attached to it. The spring traps ice chunks and other solids, such as fruit pieces and mint leaves. This allows bartenders and mixologists to serve cocktails without too much solid matter in them.
Why Is It Called a Hawthorne Strainer?
The Hawthorne strainer got its name from the Hawthorne Cafe, a bar in Boston. Although the Hawthorne Cafe doesn’t exist any longer, the strainer that carries its name lives on. In fact, any strainer with springs is called a Hawthorne strainer.
Why Do I Need a Julep Strainer?
Traditionally, bartenders use a Julep strainer to strain a cocktail from a mixing glass, while a Hawthorne is better for straining from a mixing tin. A Julep strainer provides a better fit for a mixing glass, while a Hawthorne’s more efficiently fits a mixing tin.
Use a Strainer to Serve Smooth Cocktails
Whether you’re getting your alcohol server certification or have been working behind a bar for years, include a cocktail strainer in your set of bartending tools. It will help you prepare and serve clean cocktails to guests.
If you’re learning how to make cocktails at home, a strainer provides versatility to help you prepare tea, coffee, and more. That’s why it’s a good idea to choose the best strainer to fit your needs.