If you’re not straining correctly, you may be over-diluting your cocktails with water or leaving herbs, bits of fruit, or pulp floating in your drink. I’m here to tell you about double straining and why it’s an easy technique that’ll make your cocktails that much closer to the drinks you’d enjoy at a craft cocktail bar.
Double-Straining a Cocktail, Copyright A Bar Above
What is Double Straining?
Double straining a cocktail is what it’s called when you strain through both a Hawthorne cocktail strainer and a fine-mesh strainer (sometimes referred to as a tea strainer).
While learning to craft cocktails and bartend, I’ve made many mistakes and false assumptions. I can easily imagine what I’d do if I didn’t know how to double strain a cocktail.
I’d probably shake my daiquiri and strain it into a coupe glass. Look curiously at it. Grab a pint glass, pour my cocktail into it. Place my Hawthorne strainer over the top of the pint glass and pour it back into the coupe.
In the process, I’d spill part of my precious drink and warm it up, too. When it didn’t taste the way it had at the craft cocktail bar, I’d do some research to learn how to properly double strain a cocktail.
In this case, you don’t have to learn by trial and error. We’re going to explore the technique of straining and double straining shaken cocktails.
Gold Fine Mesh Strainer, Copyright A Bar Above
The History of Straining Cocktails
Fresh, clean ice changed everything in the world of cocktails.
By the mid-1800s, readily available ice transformed the bar’s sounds, the tools and techniques of the bartender, and the drinks themselves. The proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention” applies behind the bar, too. With straining no longer optional, an array of shakers and strainers were born.
The sound of the toddy stick hitting the side of a mixing tin was replaced by the now-familiar sights and sound of cocktails being shaken and strained with a Hawthorne, fine mesh, or julep strainer.
QUICK TIP: WHEN TO SHAKE A COCKTAIL
A rule of thumb: When a drink contains juice, egg, or dairy, then shake and strain it. If not, then stir!
Chris Double-Straining a Shaken Drink, Copyright A Bar Above
When to Strain a Cocktail
Unless your recipe specifically says otherwise, strain all cocktail recipes shaken in a shaker tin. If a drink is left unstrained, hundreds of small ice chips pour into the drink, melt, and further dilute your carefully crafted cocktail, thus altering the flavor.
A “single” strain involves using only a Hawthorne strainer to filter the contents of your shaker into a glass. The Hawthorne strainer sits atop the shaker, keeping most of the pulp and ice from entering the glass.
Some small pieces of ice will escape, but that’s okay for drinks such as a margarita on the rocks because additional dilution will occur with the melting of the ice in the glass. So we don’t have to double strain like when the drink is served up.
When Should You Double Strain a Cocktail?
Double strain shaken drinks that are served up. If serving drinks on the rocks, double strain cocktails when herbs or muddled fruit are added to the shaker.
Tip: “Served Up” is what it is called when a cocktail is served in a stemmed glass without ice.
A Bar Above’s Copper Strainers, Copyright A Bar Above
Double Straining Technique
You may have seen this done countless times in your favorite watering hole. But you may not have been focused on the actual technique.
We’ll put it together step-by-step using the Old Cuban cocktail.
- 1-½ ounces aged rum
- ¾ ounce fresh lime juice
- 1 ounce simple syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 6 mint leaves
- 2 ounces cold sparkling wine
- Garnish: 1 mint leaf
Gold Hawthorne Strainer, Fine Mesh Strainer, and Boston Shaker, Copyright A Bar Above
How to Double Strain
After opening your shaker, place the Hawthorne strainer over the top of the large tin containing the liquid and ice. Place the small tin close by for easy access, to hold the fine mesh strainer upon completion.
Grip the tin and strainer with your dominant hand, positioned so that your index finger can open and close the gate. Close the gate entirely.
With your other hand, hold the fine mesh strainer over the center of the cocktail glass. Slowly pour the contents of the cocktail shaker into the basket of the mesh strainer.
NOTE: Use caution not to tip the shaker too quickly, or you’ll risk forcing the cocktail through your Hawthorne strainer, spilling over the sides and missing the fine strainer.
Allow the contents in the basket to drain until the steady stream begins to stop. Quickly set the fine mesh strainer in the small tin to catch any remaining drops and melting ice chips.
Why Double Strain
To answer the question of “why” we double strain drinks, I encourage you to conduct an experiment. Make two cocktails: Single strain one into a chilled coupe glass, and double strain the second by using a Hawthorne strainer and pouring through a fine-mesh sieve.
A classic daiquiri or the Old Cuban we made above are both terrific for this test.
Consider how the two drinks look, compare the mouthfeel, and taste them side-by-side as the ice in the single-strained cocktail melts.
- Look at the clarity. Can you see fruit pulp or herbs suspended in the drink? Which appeals to you more?
- Does one finished drink have more air bubbles than the other? Aeration creates a more full, less flat, sensation in your mouth.
- Does the single strained cocktail, with ice on top, feel different in your mouth? Does it taste less sweet? Colder temperatures mute sweetness.
- How does the balance of the sweet and acid hold up after three minutes? After five?
Fine Strainer in Stainless Steel, Copyright A Bar Above
I suspect you’ll quickly see the difference in your two cocktails. As a shaken drink is poured through the sieve, it catches citrus pulp, fruit, herbs, and ice to keep them out of your cocktail. Also, it breaks up larger air bubbles formed during shaking to create uniform aeration.
The finished product is a smooth, perfectly uniform cocktail that’s completely free of fruit bits or shards of ice, making it both delicious and a pleasure to drink.
With a little practice, you’ll be double straining like a pro. Head over to the Craft Cocktail Club community group to let us know how it goes! And of course, don’t forget to pick up your own Hawthorne and fine strainers– and any other bar tools you need– in our shop so you can make the smoothest drinks possible. Cheers!
FINE MESH STRAINER – GOLD
It’s bigger, stronger, and way fancier than the fine strainer you’re used to. Its large size lets you strain faster and plus the handle is double welded for durability. Whack it against your shaker all you like! It’s built to last.