Unless you’re using a Cobbler shaker (see shakers) you’ll need at least one strainer to stop the entire contents of your shaker or mixing glass diving into the serving glass. Man, that was embarrassing. As always there are three types of strainer – assuming we don’t count the built-in strainer of the Cobbler. None of these are expensive so why not go nuts and get one of each.
The Hawthorne strainer
This is by far the most commonly used strainer. It looks like a large flattened spoon with some holes, a few protruding tabs and a spring around the front. Designs vary quite widely. You should choose one that fits snugly, but not tightly, onto your shaker and mixing glass. These are all roughly the same size so I’m just sayin’ don’t get a little strainer if you have a large mixing glass, right? At first glance it looks very simple to use, and it is, but there are a couple of extra tricks. We’ll look at those under Techniques/Straining later. When shopping for a Hawthorne go for one that looks solid and has a tight spring and certainly not a very loose one*. Do get one with a sticky-up tab on it. Advantages of the Hawthorne are that it does the job without requiring any special skill and that it is cheap and easily available. However in skilled hands it can give you a great deal of control. Downsides are that it is somewhat inelegant and can get crapola stuck in the spring.
The Julep strainer
This looks even more like a big spoon with small round holes in it. It’s more elegant than the Hawthorne – especially a nice scalloped one – and generally fairly inexpensive. It’s more often used for stirred drinks than shaken ones but with a little practice I believe it can be the only strainer you need and it is certainly more impressive to see in use. They don’t vary much in design so just look for one that seems to be well made.
The fine strainer
The fine strainer is a mini sieve with a fine (but not superfine) mesh and is used when you want a particularly smooth cocktail with no fine fruit pulp or little ice shards in it (not always the case). Because the Cobbler has relatively large holes in the built-in strainer it more often needs to be supplemented with a fine strainer than the two listed above. To use simply hold directly over the glass and pour through it from the shaker. Yes, this requires two hands. Deal with it. You can get a strainer like this from a kitchen store. A conical one is a little more accurate to use than a bowl shaped one but either will suffice. Go with one that looks nice too – not a plastic rimmed one.
*A handy “hack” for fixing an otherwise good Hawthorn strainer with too loose a spring is intertwining a second spring (scavenged from a cheap or spare strainer) with the original. Take the original spring off, insert the second one, coil between coil, and carefully remount it.