If you want to take your cocktails to the next level, try double straining them! It’s a technique used by bartenders and mixologists that will make your cocktails look and taste more professional, and it’s so easy that anyone can do it.
What does it mean to double strain a cocktail?
Double straining — or fine straining — a cocktail is exactly what it sounds like! Instead of “single” straining the drink through only the cocktail strainer, you strain it through two strainers: a cocktail strainer and a fine mesh strainer.
Shaken cocktails served “up” (without ice) are strained at least once through a cocktail strainer like a Hawthorne strainer to remove the shards of ice and any small pieces of other ingredients like herbs or fruit. But unlike Ash Ketchum from Pokemon, the cocktail strainer alone can’t always catch em’ all. That’s where the fine mesh strainer comes into play. Pouring the drink through a fine mesh strainer ensures none of those tinier specks of ice or ingredients make it into the final drink.
While single straining has been in practice since the 1800s, the exact origin of double straining is a bit murky. According to Difford’s Guide though, the technique was likely invented in the late 1990s in London.
As long as it’s been around, the actual merit of double straining has been debated by mixologists and bartenders. Some argue it takes too much time and can be unhygienic since fine mesh strainers are difficult to clean, especially when you’re making a bunch of different drinks at a fast pace. Others think the technique is a little bit “extra”, and that a good cocktail strainer alone is just as effective when used correctly.
I definitely agree that double straining EVERY single cocktail regardless of what’s in it is over the top, but in my experience it genuinely does make a difference in shaken cocktails served up and is worth the extra effort!
Types of cocktail strainers and shakers
Cocktail strainers and shakers are two of the most important tools for any bar! There are three types of cocktail strainers and three types of shakers. Which ones do you need for double straining cocktails and how do they differ? Learn everything you need to know below!
The three types of cocktail strainers
The three types of cocktail strainers are the Hawthorne strainer, Julep strainer, and fine mesh strainer. All are used to filter out ice and other ingredients from cocktails, but they all have their own specific benefits and purposes.
- Hawthorne strainer: The Hawthorne strainer is the most popular strainer and what you’ll see most bartenders use. You can easily recognize it by its flat metal disk with holes surrounded by metal coils, which are there to catch ice and other ingredients. Typically, it’s used for shaken cocktails in conjunction with a Boston shaker, and it not only keeps out ice, but also aerates the drink as you pour it into the glass. It’s a must-have for any home bar, and a necessary tool for double straining cocktails.
- Julep strainer: The Julep strainer is shaped like a wide spoon and looks like a mini, hand-held colander, which makes it ideal for straining stirred cocktails from a mixing glass into a serving glass. You use a Julep strainer instead of a Hawthorne strainer in these circumstances simply because the Hawthorne strainer doesn’t fit well over most mixing glasses. So a good rule of thumb is to use a Julep strainer for cocktails mixed in a mixing glass, and a Hawthorne strainer for cocktails shaken in a cocktail shaker.
- Fine mesh strainer: The fine mesh strainer has very small holes compared to the other two strainers, which means it can catch smaller pieces of ice and other ingredients that a Hawthorne or Julep strainer alone might miss. It’s used along with a Hawthorne strainer (and less commonly, a Julep strainer) when you double strain cocktails.
The three types of cocktail shakers
Cocktail shakers are used to efficiently mix, dilute, and chill cocktails. When it comes to types of cocktail shakers, you have three options: the Boston shaker, Cobbler shaker, and the French or Parisian shaker.
- Boston shaker: The Boston shaker is the most common type of cocktail shaker. It’s hands down the #1 shaker of choice for bartenders and mixologists, and always what I use to make my cocktails before double straining them. It’s comprised of a large metal tin and a smaller metal tin or mixing glass that have rims that lock within one another when you shake the cocktail. Since there isn’t a strainer built in, you need a separate strainer for the Boston shaker. Luckily, many Boston shakers are sold with a Hawthorne strainer included!
- Cobbler shaker: The Cobbler shaker (also known as the three-piece shaker) is a convenient all-in-one shaker that’s made up of a metal shaking tin, built-in strainer, and cap. While it’s extremely easy to use and great for beginners, the strainer has larger holes so it isn’t nearly as effective at trapping ice and specks of ingredients. For that reason alone, I wouldn’t use a Cobbler for double straining.
- French/Parisian shaker: This is the least common but most sleek and stylish of the three types of shakers. It’s difficult to find so you won’t see it a lot in the wild, but it’s essentially a hybrid of the Boston and the Cobbler that consists of a metal tin with an hour glass shape and a smaller tin that acts as the cap. Since there’s not a built-in strainer in the French shaker, it requires a Hawthorne strainer, so it works just as well as the Boston shaker for double straining cocktails.
Tools needed to double strain a cocktail
Double straining is a super easy technique anyone can do, and you only need a few tools that are likely already somewhere in your kitchen. Here’s the rundown on what you need!
- Cocktail glass
- Cocktail shaker (like a Boston shaker)
- Hawthorne cocktail strainer
- Fine mesh strainer
These are the “official” tools used for double straining, but it’s not the end of the world if you need to improvise. For example, you can use a tea strainer instead of a fine mesh strainer — it works just as well!
The benefits of double straining cocktails
Double straining a cocktail removes any tiny fragments of ingredients, like fruit, herbs, ice, or egg white, from getting into the final drink. It’s especially beneficial for shaken drinks served up, and here are the main reasons to double strain a cocktail.
- Improved appearance: Double straining improves the presentation of the cocktail since it prevents any unwanted flecks of ice or other ingredients from floating to the top of the drink.
- Less dilution: When you shake a cocktail, the ice breaks down into super tiny shards that a Hawthorne strainer alone can’t filter out and will slowly add more dilution to the drink. This isn’t always a bad thing per se, but most of the time you don’t want your shaken drink to become more diluted as you’re drinking it.
- Smoother texture: Pouring a shaken cocktail through a fine mesh strainer gives it a slightly smoother, more velvety texture.
In short, double straining will make your cocktails prettier, tastier, and more on par with what you would get at a fancy cocktail bar!
What types of cocktails should you double strain?
Technically you can double strain any cocktail if you really want to. But do you need to double strain every cocktail? Definitely not! For me, I really only see the benefit of double straining if it’s a shaken cocktail served up.
It’s unnecessary to double strain stirred cocktails or shaken cocktails served over ice because there’s no need to prevent tiny shards of ice from diluting a cocktail if it’s already on ice, and the ice shards won’t impact the presentation either. You also don’t need to double strain stirred cocktails in general, because stirring a cocktail doesn’t create tiny ice shards in the first place like shaking a cocktail does, so there’s nothing to actually fine strain out of the drink.
The exception is if there are muddled fruits or herbs that you want to filter out, but usually in stirred drinks like a julep or bramble, the muddled ingredients are part of the cocktail and you don’t want them to be removed. If you ever do want to double strain your stirred cocktails though, use a Julep strainer along with the fine mesh strainer instead of a Hawthorne strainer.
How to double strain a cocktail
Double straining a cocktail sounds fancy, but it’s actually a really simple technique. To double strain, you simply hold the fine mesh strainer above the serving glass, then pour the contents of the shaker though both strainers. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown on how to do it at home!
- Shake your cocktail: Make your cocktail as you normally would in a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Prepare the strainers: Hold the Hawthorne strainer to the mouth of the cocktail shaker, and the fine mesh strainer under the cocktail shaker and above the serving glass.
- Double strain the cocktail: Pour the drink from the cocktail shaker through your Hawthorne strainer as you normally would, as well as through the fine mesh strainer held directly over the serving glass.
And that’s it! You should notice about a tablespoon of ice shards (and other specks of ingredients depending on the cocktail) left in the fine mesh strainer, and that’s what you’re keeping out of the cocktail.
Double strained cocktail recipes
Now that you know how to double strain a cocktail, put that knowledge to use and try out one of these delicious drinks!
- If you’re wondering what the deep reddish-brown cocktail pictured in this post is, it’s called the Trinidad Sour. It’s a unique classic cocktail made with a base of Angostura bitters that’s super complex and flavorful!
- Love refreshing gin cocktails? Try out the Army & Navy!
- To really put the double straining technique to the test, try my St Germain Lemon Basil Martini, which is shaken with basil leaves and lemon peel.
- Shake your cocktail in a shaker with ice like you normally would until well chilled.
- Hold the Hawthorne strainer to the mouth of the cocktail shaker, and a fine mesh strainer below the shaker and above the serving glass.
- Pour the cocktail via the shaker through both strainers into the serving glass.
*The Hawthorne strainer is the most common cocktail strainer, and often Boston shakers come with one included. If you're double straining a stirred cocktail though, use a Julep strainer instead.
**If you don't have a small fine mesh strainer and don't want to buy one, you can use a tea strainer.