Ask Your Bartender: What’s Crackin’?

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Hey Bartender,

Ever since I started making my own drinks at home I’ve been eyeing all my bartenders like a hawk. I’ve noticed a lot of them use the crack-open-the-boston-shaker straining technique.

What are your thoughts on this? I’m not a huge fan of it because it allows bits of ice to get into the drink and that’s just not very appetizing or pretty πŸ˜‰

Dan

Hey Dan

I tried to find a video of this for those who don’t understand what we’re talking about here, but I can’t seem to find one. If any of you have your Cocktail DVD handy, Tom Cruise pulls this move when he makes the Turquoise Blue for Gina Gershon. Anyway.

I don’t really have much of an opinion on this. I’ve asked a lot of other bartenders what they thought, and they were also fairly ambivalent. Personally, I’m so used to using a strainer that this particular flair move just slows me down. I agree with your concern that it allows bits of ice to land in what should be a non-chunky drink, but I’d be interested in hearing what others have to say.

So what do you think, internet friends? Strainer or crack?

68 Replies to “Ask Your Bartender: What’s Crackin’?”

  • Jeffrey says:

    UPDATE: I found a video that uses this technique, and I don’t know why I didn’t look at DrinksTV first.

    You’ll have to sit through the whole presentation to see her straining the drink at the end, but at least you’ll get to learn how to make an awesome new cocktail.

  • pacificdave says:

    I’m a cracker but 98% of the time I don’t leave chunks… πŸ˜›

    But yeah, if you’re going to use the Boston Shaker as your strainer too… learn to do it correctly. I don’t care either way with other bartenders unless the bartender uses the outside of the Rocks glass and tin to strain. That makes me want to blow chunks.

  • Jimmy says:

    I agree with pacificdave! I hate the “use the outside of another glass” strainer move. Personally, i like the hawthorne or the julep strainers.

  • Jeffrey says:

    Agreed, there’s something about using the outside of a drinking glass that just seems… dirty.

  • For speed purposes I like to use a Hawthorne strainer; As I strain I place the unneeded part of the shaker into the sink, to let it rinse under the tap as I pour.

    Most people that I see using the “crack” technique usually do it incorrectly; Instead of keeping both parts of the shaker horizontal, they usually rinse both ends of the shaker causing the gap to be too big, and thus allowing large bits of ice to get into the drink.

  • Jeffrey says:

    I’ve never used a julep strainer, but we use enough mint at my bar that it would be a good idea if we did.

    Alton Brown used the ‘crack the shaker’ method in his ‘Raising the Bar’ episode of Good Eats. But I think he was more making a point about not needing any ‘unitaskers’ than he was illustrating the proper way to strain a drink.

    And I agree with George, most people I see doing this do it incorrectly. But I guess huge chunks of ice floating in your Fuzzy Peach Martini can’t possibly make it taste any worse.

  • Dominik MJ says:

    But why is this drink called Martini?
    I now it is off topic – but questions are allowed???

  • Sean Bigley says:

    Cocktail strainers are made for a reason! The “crack” method is a flair move and should only be used as such.

    Any true bartender, mixologist or bar chef would never use the crack method.

    Keep the integrity of the profession and USE A STRAINER!

    I’ve NEVER seen a real pro (Tony Abou-Ganim, Dale DeGroff etc..) use anything but a strainer.

    Be professional, Hawthorne when pouring from the tin and Julep when pouring from the glass.

    Cheers to All!

  • Jeffrey says:

    Cocktail strainers are made for a reason!

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Thanks, Sean!

    Well, you’ve heard it from the Master himself, kids, so keep using those strainers. By the way, Sean’s got a really nice Julep strainer and some other killer bar accessories for sale on his site, so definitely check them out.

    Jeff

  • Waitress says:

    I’m going to be honest; I crack.

    My only defense is that I work at a speed bar, where a large number of drinks need to be made quickly. Cracking takes less time than using a strainer.

    πŸ™

  • Jeffrey says:

    Oh, Waitress, how we’ve missed you. Welcome back, my dear!

    Is cracking the shaker really much faster? I mean, assuming that the goal is to pour a drink with no large chunks of ice in it, it seems to me that pouring through a large opening is faster than pouring through a small crack?

    What’s the benefit of cracking the shaker? Does it have to do with not having to look for a strainer?

  • Waitress says:

    Here’s the scenario: Someone (probably a stripper) comes up to my bar and wants “something fruity that will fuck her up,” so I decide on a Woo-woo.

    I grab my tin shaker, scoop out some ice, pour the vodka and peach, add cranberry, and grab a (FRESH) plastic cup and place it inside the tin, and vigerously shake.

    Now I have one of two options: I can:
    1. Pull the cup out of the tin, reach for my strainer, place the strainer over the opening of the tin, pour out drink.
    OR
    2. Pull the cup out of the tin only far enough to expose a small slit, pour out the drink.

    Much faster.

    And I don’t get ice in the drink. Nasty.

    I miss you too darling, when are we getting married?

  • ADW says:

    I too use the crack method, but in my defense it is the only option I have. I work at a speed bar as well and while they had strainers for the first few weeks they were open, there have been none around for the last four years. Every time we would get new ones, some stupid ass newbie would either throw them away, or they walked off. I even went as far as to bring one of mine in from home, but after that one disappeared I decided to just use what was at hand. No chunks in the drinks though – that is just poor bartending.

  • Peter Young says:

    Hey – fledgling bartender here.

    I prefer strainers, but in some bars they have a habit of not being where you need them and when. I agree with the above poster that it’s more professional to use the proper tools (I’m not sure what a Julep strainer is, heh) but I have a certain ambivalence when it comes to different situations. I do believe that a strainer is faster, speedwise, as only a strainer lets me pour so quickly that if I’m not careful I get a cocktail fountain glass.

    The lady in the video drops a chunk of ice in her cocktail ;p

  • Jeffrey says:

    So here’s what I do and think.

    First off, we have two shakers, two mixing glasses, two bar spoons, two muddlers and two strainers in every station. Losing one of your tools will result in incredible amounts of humiliation from your coworkers, as well as generally fucking up your whole mise-en-place. Organization is possibly the most important thing a good bartender’s world, so misplacing a bar tool is just not an option. So, we always know where our strainers are. Plus, 90% of the drinks we make are shaken and strained, so we’re not exactly hunting for our tools once an hour.

    Cracking is not fast for me, and here’s why. It would take forever for me to strain an ice-free cocktail because when I shake a drink, I shake the living shit out of it.

    I’m serious, I shake harder than anyone I’ve ever met. I pulverize drinks and get them incredibly cold in a very short amount of time. The end result is a whole bunch of little ice shards in the shaker.

    Now, I know a lot of people think that a layer of ice floating on top of a drink is a mark of excellence, but I think it makes a drink look and taste like shit. In fact, I would fine-strain all of my drinks through my tea strainer if I had the time. I think drinks should be Arctic cold, and totally homogenous from start to finish. That little layer of ice chunks at the start of a drink sounds neat, but ice doesn’t taste like anything and I see it as a chunky little barrier before you can enjoy your cocktail.

    I strain. My strainers are always next to my right hand, so it’s fast, efficient, and it filters out the majority of the ice.

  • Smach says:

    Strain or crack? They both sound a little uncomfortable in a novice situation. I would, personally, much rather strain than crack. Less chance of utter destruction.

  • cha-chi says:

    Crack’s and chunk’s? Reminds me of when I was 25.

  • Trevor Smith says:

    In my years as a bartender I’d say that cracking is faster and more stylish than straining. It’s an advanced skill. You have to learn minimize the size of the crack to prevent ice from slipping through.

  • Sean Bigley says:

    Wow! I must be a bigger cocktail snob than I thought. For me, half the joy of enjoying a great cocktail is watching the bartender create a work of art in a timely, professional manner. I would much rather wait an extra two seconds for my drink watching it made traditionally and with pride than a little quicker and sloppy. No offense to the crackers, but I’ll be getting my cocktails elsewhere. This is a great topic of discussion, though.

    Cheers!

  • Michael says:

    Strain it. Always strain it. As a former colleague of mine once expressed so eloquently:

    “It’s about the drink, stupid.”

  • Anthony says:

    The crack method is for amatures who don’t know how to bartend correctly. I work in a very busy fast paced martini bar and I never would dream of using the crack method. It’s too slow. The strainer is faster and smoother. Too many wanabe socalled professional bartenders are just unorganized and not set up for speed behind the bar. Keep your well organized and shakers continually rinsed and you will have no problems. If I can make 6 t0 8 different cocktails(martini’s) to perfection everytime in under 3min. using only 3 shakers and still rinse between each drink and still shake well enough to leave tiny ice crystals on top of each drink you can too.

  • Anthony says:

    I’d have to agree with Jeffery #15 response. And Jefffery I’d bet I can give you a run for your money in the shaking dept.

  • Jeffrey says:

    I don’t know, Anthony, you’ve obviously never seen my one giant arm.

    Seriously, my right arm is now bigger than my left.

    I look like a crab.

  • Ali says:

    Interesting article Jeff, and website…haven’t seen it in awhile.
    Here is my two cents on the issue, I used to “crack” when I used two tins, a regular sized one and a cheater tin (I dont like glass, I’ve broken a couple)after using a strainer the last couple days I dont notice that much of a difference or much if any time loss.
    Strainer is the way way to go.
    And you do look crabby…if only at the end of your shift…ha

  • e.b. adkins says:

    im a bit late on this thread but ice chips in your drink are bad! bad i’s tell you. i use a julep strainer on all drinks because it lets less crap through. if i used a hawthorne strainer i would double strain.

  • Jeff says:

    I’ve use both methods over the years and definitely prefer to use a strainer if I have the time.

    I used to work at a speed bar where I spent my whole shift 3 to 4 deep with customers who could care less about drink quality or ice chips in their drinks (just about getting drunk). In that situation, my strainer always seems to disappear at some point and I end up cracking and straining. This is not a “flair” move, it’s a speed and necessity move.

    I would never expect to see this at a bar where they cared about drink quality.

  • Cocktailgeek says:

    ALWAYS use a strainer. Nothing says amateur like the cheesy “egg-crack” technique. When I see it, I order a beer.

  • John Claude says:

    Anything with a quality higher than say…Ketel gets stirred (not shaken) and strained. Anything else get shaken and then has the glass flipped and shoved into the shaker to strain. People LOVE it as a flair move. I’ve never had one person complain in five years. They generally think it’s slick as all get out.

    Someone please explain how the strainer is any cleaner than the glass that’s just been through the washer. It’s not. Get off your high horses.

  • John Claude says:

    Oh, and comment #19, Sean, try sharing your opinion with the 20 people behind you waiting for drinks. The quality is EXACTLY the same, strained or cracked. I’ll take fast and quality over slow and “quality” any day.

  • Kevin says:

    When I first started bartending at home I cracked because I simply did not have a strainer. I did it so much infact that I can do it every time now with no ice floating on top. It’s really not hard and just as fast if you practice.

    I have since of course purchased a hawthorne strainer, and honestly I don’t like it as much, it simply lets too much ice through. Maybe I should just swap to Julep strainers which seem to let even less ice through.

    And as number 28 said, get off your high horses people. Yes straining looks more elegant than cracking, but if you know what you are doing it does not at all reflect the quality of the drink. As I just said, my cracked drinks have less ice (ie no ice) than my strained drinks…

    Also note that I can make my strainer not have ice in it, but the only way is to pour it ssllooowwwllly which defeats the arguement (at least from personal experience) of it being faster than cracking.

  • Kikiyu says:

    Actually, my bartending school trained Tom Cruise for ‘Cocktail’ and they all crack. πŸ˜‰

  • Jeffrey says:

    I guess that settles it, then!

  • Darryl says:

    I’m really late to this post, but I have a funny related story. I was at a restaurant in Pasadena, California and the waiter said I should try a martini as the bartender was from New York and knew what he was doing. He said he makes his martinis with a glacier effect. I didn’t know what he was talking about until the drink arrived and I had a large layer of thin ice on the top of my drink. So he had actually created a positive sounding term to cover up his inability to strain. That was a new low for me.

  • strain

    Use a hawthorne strainer with a boston shaker, use a julep strainer with a stirred drink in a mixing glass. Every bar I have consultated/managed this is mandatory as it shows professionalism.

    The crack method shows a lack of class, resulting in ice shards and/or shrubbery if herbs are used, floating in the drink. As far as speed, i don’t believe the crack method is faster if you are a prepared bartender. Ive seen so many crack bartenders teeter todder the shaker back and forth until they get out every last drop.

    As far as nightclub bartenders that sell 5K a night, do whatever you want, cause seconds really do count! Customers should realize the enviroment they are in before getting snobby, hence I drink beer or highballs in nightclubs.

  • Dave Yeager says:

    With a background in classic cocktails I used to swear by straining. Most of my career I have had a mental image of two distinct types of bartenders. Your bartenders and flairtenders. I have seen bartenders as the chefs of the bar and flairtenders as the kid throwing a pizza dough in the air at the pizza joint. Bartenders strain and flairtenders crack.

    I have recently changed my mind. I opened a high end sports bar. A truly high end sports bar, our top entree is a dry aged CAB tenderloin and we offer fair all the way down to CAB hamburgers and pizza. Before we opened for the first day I thought every bartender should use a strainer every time. We opened our doors at 4pm and had sold 3,500.00 in drinks by 8pm with two bartenders. I have to be honest. At that point I probably could not even tell you what a strainer was. This experience and many nights since have changed my outlook on this matter.

    But like many have said before, you can crack but don’t crack sloppy. Also if I am not too busy at that moment, I say no to crack and keep true to my heritage.

  • Greg says:

    I prefer to use a strainer, but I can crack pour without getting ice in a drink.

    Strainers, along with bar spoons, and peelers are lost in our bars frequently.

    That was until I installed a kitchen knife magnet to the underside of the bar top over each ice well.

    We keep, a pairing knife, peeler, two strainers, and a bar spoon on the magnet. We never lose these items anymore, and they are even more conveniently located than if they were set on a spill mat.

    Speaking about using the outside of the glass to strain from a Boston shaker. Yeah, we know the glass was clean, until the bartender touched it.

  • Abram says:

    I like cracking for precisely the reason that most of the objectors dislike it. Of course it’s totally wrong to have chunks of ice floating in your cocktail glass, however I think the ever so small slivers of ice that you get on top of a shaken cocktail is what gives a “shaken” drink like a martini it’s character. Otherwise I would just ask for it stirred.

  • Abram, you might get a bit of grief from some readers around here for shaking a Martini in the first place. Just a heads-up!

  • Callum says:

    At the bar I work in, Hawthorne strainers, bar spoons etc. go missing frequently, so I’m often forced to use the cracking method. Although I can strain fine using this method, I much prefer the Hawthorne strainer for two reasons – one being the ice issue – it’s almost impossible to crack without allowing a few shards of ice through – but secondly, when making a drink like a French Martini, it’s hard to strain out the froth, leaving the drink looking rather flat.

    Hawthorne all the way!

  • Albert says:

    I know that the original post’s over a year old, but I felt like chiming in mis dos centavos. And it’s been awhile since we’ve caught up.

    A good question to ask yourself when it comes to stylistic flourishes is, “Would I be doing this if I were working the service-bar?” In tight spaces, where no one of consequence is watching, it’s ALL about the drink. If the answer ends up being “No”, then chances are because it sacrifices speed, precision, or quality in the work. If the answer is “Yes”, then it’s your thing, do what you want to do.

    Any bartender, with time, learns how to crack the glass without letting ice chips fall. But any bartender, with organization, should be fast and efficient with their tools. Making a case for one or the other is apples and oranges in the end. Personally, I strain – Hawthorne for tin, julep for glass.

    On the matter of using the “reverse-the-glass” technique – I think it’s lame. Aside from the cleanliness questions posed above, also because of how proud bartenders who do it feel after they notice you watching. If you’re going to incorporate something into your style, flair or not, do it with dignity.

  • Lucas says:

    Strain People!

    I’m a liquor snob, beer advocate, and developing wine enthusiast at 25 years of age. I’ve been tending bar for 5-6 years and have been reading and exploring the trade for just as long. I think cracking is a flair move in that it involves risk. Althouth it’s never happened to me, I am still concerned that during a crack pour, between gravity and the holding angle and
    condensation, the shaker could drop… on a martini glass, shot glass, etc. (Let me know if I’m alone on this) If you work at a flair bar or nightclub or your owner/mgr for whatever reason doesn’t care about breakage, then crack away. But if you work at an establishment where clientele expect professionalism, then strain. Broken glass on a bar top is not attractive. And ice just gets in the way of consuming your libation.

  • cheinz9 says:

    How ’bout this: I’ve no problem cracking the strainer over fresh ice, and I’ll strain into a cocktail glass. There are instances when rules may need to be bent. With something as trivial as this (done correctly, obviously), I’m surprised that it even made me comment, after a year and a half.

  • galin says:

    Here is what I think :
    1. cracking is efficient way of straining a cocktail over ice as long as you don’t have muddled fruits in your recipe
    2. never use cracking to strain your cocktails that require to be served straight-up ( small chunks of ice spoil the appearance and taste of the drink) unless you have very big hands and you can actually hold the cracked boston shaker over the glass with one hand and strain your drink through fine strainer that you hold with your other hand. Straight-up cocktails should be served well chilled with no ice whatsoever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Sam Z says:

    Ok here’s what I think and disagree if you think I’m wrong. This is focused on the “cracking” technique.

    It doesn’t come down to whether it’s right or wrong but whether it’s appropriate or inappropriate.
    You should ask yourself two questions to help decide.

    Is it appropriate for the drink I’m making?

    Is it appropriate for the venue I’m working in?

    From past experience I found that you can’t go wrong with the hawthorn but cracking does add flair to the drink. If your working in a high market cocktail bar or making a quality drink (i.e martini)you should always use a hawthorn (I double strain mine with a tea strainer) because it’s all about the drink in most cases. Where as a bar that has more of a “fun” or a “party” attitude, cracking or even the waterfall technique (google or youtube that one) is rewarding because I feel it involves the patron a little bit more and even get a “wow” at times.

    To sum it up…..

    There’s a time and place for everything.

    Cheers,

    Sam.

  • Evan M. says:

    I have to agree with Sean with an added note if there is muddled and/or shaken fruit/herbs in the cocktail you must strain from the glass with a julep strainer. Also, if you are paying around $10 for a cocktail you deserve not to have ice chunks in your drink and the glass shouldn’t be a sticky mess. The only time I could see cracking as an option but still not the best one is if straining a margarita in a wide-mouthed ice filled margarita glass. And another note about straining: PLEASE! double-strain if shaking herbs.

  • Starla says:

    Out here in Vegas in all fine-dining restaurants and night clubs (minus a few primarily flair bars) a strainer is used to demonstrate professionalism. It is taught in the union classes. I personally don’t mind doing both. It depends on volume and the guest I am serving.

  • Matthew says:

    There is one problem with cracking that’s not been metioned yet (as far as I can see). It’s the 1 out of 500 (or 5000) times that the top 1/4 inch of the glass breaks off inside the shaker leaving a perfect ring in the shaker and, undoubtedly, miniscule shards in the drink. This happens to me only like once a year, but still, I thought it was worth mentioning. Sort of up there with not scooping ice with a glass.

  • CH says:

    OMG,

    anyone who uses a boston tin to open a bottle, needs to be cracked. It warps the tin and allows fluid to fly when shaking. Do yourself a favour and buy a bar blade ( 10 bottles in 8 sec’s) and do yourself another favour, if you are going to use a tin, DON’T use mine.

  • For the love of Pete, Cameron. Where on earth did you dig that up?

    I guess we know what that guy’s vote is.

  • The Last Alchomist says:

    Ahh the perennial debate of straining…to be honest I’m old fashioned when it comes to making my drinks so therefore I always strain with hawthorn or julep, my preference is for using hawthorns and for double straining martinis or any cocktails that are served in a stemmed glass. The way I figure it, it’s not so much the technique you use but how well you do it. All to often those who “crack” leave to large a gap between the two halves of the shaker which allows all those crappy shards of ice to escape into the glass. There’s the rub. As for barspoons and strainers going missing all the time – start beating your bartenders around the head until they get into the habit of putting equipment back, clean, immediately after use. Everything has a home and a place!

  • Danny says:

    Right lets get this sorted first.

    If someone’s looking for speed with a, dare I say it ‘cocktail’ such as a ‘woo woo’, you don’t even need to crack the boston tin, just use the dirty ice n wash the tin…. done…

    Secondly, would hawthorne and fine strainers still be being sold worldwide to all the top end bars and bartenders if it wasn’t the most efficient and effective way to strain a drink? The answer is NO. So for ye average bartenders who serve average drinks, keep on crackin. Otherwise get with the times and show some pride in your drinks…..

    Jeez…

  • Zacc says:

    For me, the question is not whether to crack or strain, but whether to single-strain or double strain. I am in agreeance with several other opinions here, have some pride in your drinks, regardless of whether the customer is going to appreciate it or not.

    You never know when someone is waiting at the bar, watching your attention to detail and deciding that their next drink and tip are coming your way.

  • Andy Stewart says:

    A the resurection of an old thread. Just throwing in my tuppence worth.

    99% of the time I’ll always double strain. the only time you’ll ever see me crack pour is into a drink that contains crushed ice already and my bar back hasn’t kept up on supplying me with a clean hawthorne and tea strainer.

  • Xain says:

    This is a really old thread but has anyone ever used one of these?

    http://z.about.com/d/cocktails/1/0/y/9/-/-/quickstrain_tins.jpg

    The concept combines the best of both worlds. I have worked in a plethora of environments, and a few years back i punched (drilled) a bunch of little holes in one of my weighted makos and it has served me amazingly well in both high speed speed slingin and clean professional straining.

    I always have two at the bar, one with tiny holes(3/32″) and one with medium holes(1/8″)

    Note: The ones in the picture i posted are some random company’s product, and personally the holes look too big, but it gets the idea across.

    -Xain C

  • MAA says:

    Whenever possible and practical, ask the guest. Here’s the deal- I will do what is appropriate for the drink and most importantly for the guest who will be consuming it. If someone orders a cosmo or lemon drop, they may well enjoy that layer of teeny-tiny ice shards atop their cocktail. Vodka drinkers tend to go this way, even on their martinis (especially if they like it dirty). I have even known people who like that effect on their gin martinis. While you may gently attempt to educate them as to why you believe it is better without the icy bits, it is their drink- not yours- and that is what they should get. If someone orders a vodka martini from me, I will ask “shaken or stirred?” and if they have no preference then I will stir gently and use a julep strainer or double strain. If they say shaken, I will ask if they like those little icy bits. If they say “yes” then I will absolutely pulverize that drink and crack the shaker, and can do either method quickly and cleanly. It’s their call, first and last. 2 years and 56 comments and nobody even suggested this yet? Yowza!

  • MAA says:

    p.s.

    Jeff, your website is awesome.

  • Kae says:

    Most of the nightclubs I have worked in don’t even have a clean place to set and keep a strainer. The only flat surface in quick reach is the bar itself which is hardly sterile. So I became an expert cracker and am quite fond of taking out that extra step. It may take only a few seconds, but in a night where you might make 400 drinks in 2 1/2 hours, those seconds sometimes feel precious.

  • Kohai says:

    I know this is years old at this point, but I don’t think anyone has mentioned this yet: the gate.

    “Gating” a hawthorne strainer involves controlling the amount of pressure you use to press down on the strainer as you pour the drink through it. The flexible spring allows this: The more pressure, the smaller the opening and the fewer ice chunks (not to mention pulp and fruit pieces)that are allowed into a drink. It’s all about control. I don’t think the cracking method is terrible, but I’ve never felt like I had all that much control over it. With a hawthorne, there’s no question.

  • Todd Appel says:

    bad form and inefficient to crack it..

    please at least use a Hawthorne strainer!

  • Brock says:

    I use the crack method most of the time…not because it looks cool, but because once you become proficient, it’s quick and it’s one less item I have to wash when I’m done. If I’m making drinks with sugared or salted rims I usually strain if making more than one. Straining seems to preserve the rim better on multiple drinks.

    I guess this proves I am not a “real pro.” Whatever. When did bartending attract so many pseudo-authorities?

    I’ve never broken a glass in the shaker either..knock on wood.

  • Mike says:

    Straining seems more of a professional technique and the shards tend to take away from the appearance of cocktails like martinis. I have had a fair share of customers asking for the seasoned ice as a back to keep the drink cold, so I see how customers would like the shards. Mg.

  • Benny says:

    Well, since this one has been resurrected a few times, why not one more? And this is a subject that interests me.

    First, as others have said, cracking is a flair move. And like all flair moves, it looks great and impresses customers when DONE RIGHT, and in the RIGHT VENUE. When not done right, or in the wrong venue, it’s cheap and sloppy.

    Second, I can crack way faster than straining and without a sliver of ice. But I practice it a lot. If you aren’t already great at it, practice at home before you even think about trying it at the bar.

    And even if you’re a pro, cracking should be reserved for speed bars and popular drinks. High end clientele and classic drinks both call for the strainer. Always. When I see a bartender cracking a martini at a hotel (and I have), I just want to smack them.

  • Johnny says:

    At my bar we have 4-6 shaker tins at each station (6 stations total) and probably 4 strainers in the whole place.
    I’ve never thought of cracking as a flair move. its just faster. One less step from tin to glass.

  • Jeffrey

    Major props for the Alton Brown reference, Good Eats is basically my favorite show on TV (even if only in rerun form).

    The only time I use the break method is when I am trying to control amount of foam going into the drink (the thought being foam floats so better to effectively pour from the bottom bottom instead of the top). Otherwise I just use the strainer in the top of my shaker.

    -Martin Coates IV

    P.S. I am an Engineer not a bartender, but I love throwing cocktail parties on my beach.

    P.P.S. I love your blog. Sorry if I keep asking the sub question, but I have a few friends that are forbidden from sugar so always looking for cocktails with low GI for diabetics.

  • Cache says:

    Anyone who claims cracking is for speed simply doesn’t know how to actually combine speed and accuracy, as one is simply no damn good without the other, no matter how shitty your bars standards, or your patrons.

    I recently got to take part in a speed competition at a friends bar setup simply to decide whether cracking or straining was faster. Each bartender made a Cosmo, two chilled shots of vodka(in one shaker) and a Woo-woo.

    A pair of bartenders, four rounds, where they switched each round, and we combined the times for a total completed time for the crack only station, and the strain only station(hawthornes). It was a fun time during an otherwise slow afternoon, and we got to drink all the finished drinks between us.

    The strain only station had a faster time by over 1 1/2 minutes, and the spill mat under the crack station had a shitload more in it.

    Cracking is for amateurs, and folks who don’t have the right tools, because they don’t understand that tools make the job easier.

  • Matthew T Williams says:

    I’ve been tending bar in craft cocktail bars for a couple of years now and the first time I saw someone cracking I thought “What is this, amateur hour?”

    If I’m straining out of the tin, I use a hawthorne and tea strainer because the chances are that I’ve shaken it. And yes, hawthornes can let a lot of ice through, so the tea strainer also helps remove any tiny bits of pulp that sly snuck through when I first strained the citrus (if the drink contains citrus).

    If I’m pouring out of a glass, I use a julep strainer because I only pour out of a glass if I’ve stirred, so ice isn’t an issue.

    I’m telling you, after practise, you can use the hawthorne + tea strainer just as quickly as you can crack, and rinse them off quickly in the sink.

    Plus, when it hits the strainer it aerates the cocktail some and looks like you’re putting extra care and attention into it (which, of course, you are).

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