Hawthorne Strainers, Pub Strainers, Julep Strainers, Cobbler Shakers... Does it Matter?
You'll notice at the bottom of most drink recipes (mine included) a bit of instruction on how to combine the ingredients and get them into the glass (or coconut, pineapple, etc...) These typically mention what to do with the ice and that often involves a strainer of some sort. The good news for those of you that are strainer challenged is that more Tiki drinks require an "open pour" than almost any other style of cocktails. An open pour is just that, dump the whole mix, ice and all, in your glass. While using the ice that was used during mixing in the final drink is frowned upon in many cocktail styles, it makes sense in the Tiki world due to the use of syrups and fruit purees that tend to stick to the ice in the shaker/mixer.
So, now that we've covered the open pour, what other types do you need to know to be a good purveyor of fine Tiki drinks? You really only need a couple more, The Gated Pour and the Double Strain.
Gated Pour: I think that I did this a lot while bartending because I was never any good at mixing the right amount to fit perfectly into the serving glass. Essentially this is open pouring the first 70-80% of the mix and then straining out the drink while holding back the ice used in the mixing process for the last bit. This can be done using either a Cocktail Shaker or a Hawthorne Strainer in conjunction with a Boston Shaker. the point is that if you run out of space in the glass the drink got all of the liquor and just missed out on the ice. If the liquor runs out and the glass isn't full, remove the strainer and let loose the ice. Either way you get to CYA. I think I picked up the term "gated pour" from Martin Crate's Smuggler's Cove book.
Double Strain: This is a gated pour that goes through a pub strainer on its way to the glass. It's particularly useful when your mix has muddled fruits or leaves the remains of which you do not want in your cocktail.
Now that you know the predominant types of pours let's take a look at the required accouterments.
A Cocktail Shaker is the type you've seen that is a three piece tin comprised of the mixing vessel, a lid with holes in the middle for straining and a cap so that you can shake it without spraying your drink across the room. To be honest, I'm not too crazy about them. First of all, most Tiki drinks used crushed ice which can quickly clog the holes in the strainer of a cocktail shaker. Secondly, they bend easily and as soon as that happens they no longer seal well and nobody wants to hoist a leaky shaker above their shoulder.
A Boston Shaker is a two piece contraption consisting of a mixing glass (essentially a pint glass) and a mixing tin. You pour ingredients into the glass then the tin fits over the top of the glass. they make a seal that increases due to the temperature differential caused by the ice. To strain when using a Boston Shaker you need a dedicated strainer. While the Hawthorne Strainer is the most common, you can also use a Julip Strainer or pour through a Pub Strainer.
A Julep Strainer is just a large spoon with holed in it. These were originally used (surprise, surprise) for mint juleps as they were invented during a unique time in American history. It was the first great age of ice which came before straws were common and happened to coincide with the popular proliferation of beards. This combination resulted in minty teeth across the South and mustaches that were full of wet ice. The Julep Strainer was inserted in the glass in an inverted position so that all the drinker got was a mouth full of whisky goodness. They can be used to strain out of your mixing glass. The pro is that they are better at catching small shards of ice ad veggies than a Hawthorne Strainer (and it's easier to clean). The con is that they don't work well if they aren't the correct size to fit the glass at hand so you have to be a bit more careful when pouring.
A Hawthorne Strainer is the one that has a flat top with a wire coil underneath. It's much more common and my preferred strainer as well. The Hawthorne sits on top of the mixing tin (or glass, I won't judge) and holds most of the ice and veggies back when you pour the mix into your final glass. Notice I said "most". If you have a cocktail that needs to be completely free of ice or particulates you'll need to go one step further pull out a Pub Strainer and use the Double Strain pour.
The Pub Strainer is simply a mesh strainer like you would find in a kitchen only smaller. It's rarely used alone but as a second filter after using a Julep or Hawthorn to strain out the larger particulates that would immediately clog the wire mesh in a pub strainer. To use, hold the pub strainer above the serving glass and pour your mix out of the Hawthorne (or Julep) into the Pub Strainer. The liquid should flow through while everything else missed by the first strainer is captured. You may have to shake it a bit to keep it flowing and in some cases you might even want to press the leftovers to squeeze out all the flavor you can.
So, if open pours are not bad in the Tiki world, why do we need the others? Let's start with why mixologists strain in the first place. Shaking or stirring a drink in ice cools it and melts a bit of the ice to water the liquor down to a more palatable alcohol level. If the drink is served straight up like a martini or some daiquiris then the ice's job is done at that point and you need to get it out of the drink before it over-dilutes the mix. If your drink is served on ice, dumping the old ice you used to mix with allows the bartender to introduce new ice that has not been melted and is thus larger and will be longer lasting. As such it will slow down the inevitable dilution of the drink as the ice melts.
A few issues make Tiki drinks different in this regard. First, we use a lot of crushed ice in order to dilute the heavy syrups and copious amounts of rum in many Tiki drinks. Even in open pour recipes we often top off with more crushed ice in order to slow the dilution a bit. However, as necessary as Tiki is to the health and welfare of humanity, it was (and is), after all, a business. Getting patrons to switch from the martinis, Manhattans, and other whiskey and gin based cocktails to which they were accustomed was necessary if the movement was to survive. As such there are quite a few Tiki drinks that were designed as Tikified versions of drinks patrons would have found familiar at the time. These require knowing the straining techniques of the original cocktails upon which they were based. Lastly, as the Polynesian Pop movement has resurrected itself, the study of classic Tiki drinks has led to an inevitable conclusion. Change was constant. Whether because of the scarcity of an ingredient (Wray & Nephew 17-year) or the introduction of a new technology (the Waring mixer) or product (Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut), Tiki drink recipes were constantly evolving. Every good Tiki bartender experiments constantly. Applying techniques used in other cocktail styles is a great way to expand your palate and introduce others to Tiki flavors without having to go full Mai Tai on them.