Friday, April 3, 2015

Tools: Strainers

Strainers are a crucial tool for a bartender. They are really what give a drink it's texture. There are many ornate strainers made by beautiful artisans, but they all boil down to essentially three styles. Some may include slight variations such as prongs for balance or a more comfortable grip. Some even have the ability to strain into two glasses at once. For our purposes, there are really just three.


The julep strainer is designed exclusively to filter out large chunks of ice. It's a concave piece of metal with equally sized holes throughout. This allows liquid to flow through while restraining any large chunks of ice. They are designed specifically to fit the standard mixing or Boston glass. Tere is some debate as to how the julep strainer best meshes with the glass. Most people insert it with the bowl facing up as this tends to allow a slightly firmer grip on the handle butIt does allow very small chips of ice to flow through, but these melt almost immediately. The ideal time to use a julep strainer is when you are making a stirred cocktail. They are ideal for drinks that are made solely from spirits, like martinis. Julep strainers do not function very well at filtering out juice pulp or other particulates. 


A Hawthorne strainer is probably the strainer that bartenders are most familiar with. Most are comprised of a flat piece of metal with holes and a handle. What makes it a Hawthorne strainer is the spring running around the edge of the bottom of the strainer. This enables the strainer to be adjustable and fit a variety of pouring vessels such as a mixing glass or beaker, a mixing tin, and a cheater tin. The spring also allows the strainer to be adjusted while sitting in the glass or tin. You can pull the strainer back to allow pulpy juices to flow through. You can also press it forward to force the liquid to flow through the spring and the flat metal piece filtering out much more dense pulp. Pretty much whenever you make a shaken cocktail, a Hawthorne strainer is the best strainer for the job.

The fine mesh or tea strainer doesn't serve many functions on its own. It does serve an amazing job of supplementing the efforts of a Hawthorne strainer in filtering shaken drinks. Simply strain with a Hawthorne strainer and pour into the Mesh strainer over the glass. some bartenders can even do this all one-handed, gripping the mesh strainer with their thumb and holding the tin and Hawthorne with their whole hand. The fine mesh filters out even the smallest ice chips and bits of pulp. It also helps further aerate a cocktail after being shaken. A mesh strainer does get clogged however especially when dealing with pulp. Often times it will be necessary to tap the mesh strainer to get the last bits of the cocktail through the mesh.

“Alcohol lowered inhibitions. It didn't create impulses that weren't there.”
- Chelsea Scott

Photo Credit: wikimedia

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