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Hawthorne Strainers

A strainer is an essential part of your cocktail kit. Which model is the finest?


Published June 10, 2019. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 21: Japanese-Inspired Favorites

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What You Need To Know

If you use a Boston shaker to make cocktails, you’ll need a separate cocktail strainer to hold back the ice, stray herbs, and citrus wedges as you pour your drink into a glass. There are a few types of cocktail strainers, but the Hawthorne strainer is the most commonly used. It’s essentially a slotted and/or perforated disk with a spring mounted on part of the perimeter; the spring acts as a filter as liquid exits the shaker. We wanted to know which Hawthorne strainer was best for home bartenders, so we bought six models, priced from about $4 to about $16, and used them to strain ice and other typical cocktail ingredients.

Head Design Is Critical to Fit

All of the strainers will keep large ice cubes from plopping into your drink as you pour it into the glass—the bare minimum required of any cocktail strainer. But a few factors made certain models easier to use and capable of straining more finely than others.

Cocktail shakers vary in size, so the design of the head was critical in determining how well the strainers fit on different vessels. When using a strainer, the spring goes inside the shaker and metal wings or prongs attached to the head usually keep the whole thing perched on top. Not surprisingly, we preferred models that had wings or prongs that were long enough to reach the edges of larger shakers with room to spare, ensuring that they sat securely. One of the models had prongs that didn’t quite extend to the edges of the larger half of our favorite Boston shaker, requiring us to fuss with it to get it to latch on; as a result, the whole strainer sometimes fell into the shaker.

Handles and Finger Grips Matter, Too

Two other features determined how easy the strainers were to use. We preferred models that were well balanced, with relatively short, lightweight handles, 3.5 inches or shorter. One strainer had an unusually heavy, 5-inch-long handle that upset the balance of the whole unit, making it impossible to leave the strainer on top of the shaker without holding it in place, as it would flip backwards and fall off.

We also preferred models that had finger rests—little tabs sticking out from the middle of their heads—as these allowed for a more secure grip and better control over the strainer. You simply lay your index finger on the tab and press against the head to keep the strainer held tightly against the mouth of the shaker. By pressing down on the tab, you can also compress the spring and narrow the opening through which your drink strains, allowing you to filter the drink more finely as well.

Spring Design Determines Performance

Ultimately, how finely each strainer filtered out citrus pulp, bits of muddled mint, o...

Everything We Tested

Good : 3 stars out of 3.Fair : 2 stars out of 3.Poor : 1 stars out of 3.
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Reviews you can trust

Reviews you can trust

The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.

Miye Bromberg

Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.