Monday, August 22

Measuring the Pour

Measurement of the ingredients in a cocktail is very important. The addition of a small amount of some ingredients can have a large effect on the outcome of the cocktail. The measurements of these ingredients are paramount.

How do professional bartenders make it look so easy? It seems as though they are just pouring away without even thinking about the ounces they are adding. The fact of the matter is they are using a measuring technique known as the free pour.

The free pour once practiced and mastered is the fastest and probably the second most accurate way to measure cocktail ingredients. You may have noticed the spigots that are attached to bottles of liquor in bars. These pourers are the key to free pour measuring. The pourers ensure the liquor comes out of the bottle in a consistent, constant rate. The pour spout of choice is the Spill-Stop Model #285-50 (pictured here). This pour spout is the most reliable and widely used.

Here's how it’s done. The first thing you have to do is condition yourself to know how long it takes to pour 1 1/2 ounces (a typical shot). To do this start with filling an empty bottle with water and attaching a pouring spout. Then take a 1 1/2 ounce jigger in one hand, stand over a sink, and pour the water into the jigger while counting in this fashion... 1 and 2 and 3 and 4... you should get to 6 just as the water starts to pour over the top of the jigger. Practice this about a dozen times until you feel like you have the timing right. (3)

Now its time to test yourself. Tryout your new skills by free pouring into a regular mixing glass. After the pour take the water from the glass and measure it in your jigger. You should get a full jigger with a small amount of run-off. If you really want to get anal you can use device called an Exacto-Pour. It is a measuring device that costs $60 to $80 bucks, but I think a $2 jigger will do just as well to test your pour.

That's it! Now you can free pour a 1 1/2 ounce shot. Practice often and don't just assume that you will stay accurate you should test yourself at least once a week. Of course once you have become decent at it you can just test yourself as you are making a drink with real alcohol. No need to drag out that bottle of water.

You say that you don't always need a 1 1/2 ounce pour? No problem. For a 1 once pour, just count to 4, for half an ounce, just count to 2. Basically what you have is 1/4 ounce for each count. There are very few recipes that will call for a liquor pour of less than 1/4 ounce increments.

Stay away from the pour spouts that measure out your liquor for you. They are just a pain because they tend to get clogged and you have to tilt the bottle back and forth if you want more than what it measures.

As stated above, the free pour is the fastest way to dispense cocktail ingredients, but not the most accurate. One can understand why it may not be the most accurate if it is not practiced enough. The most accurate way to dispense cocktail ingredients is the use of a jigger every single time for every ingredient. This is slower, but if you are not in a rush and the measure is critical... use the jigger.

A jigger is measuring device that has two sides to it, one that is bigger than the other. The whole thing is referred to as a jigger but the bigger side is the actual jigger. The smaller side is called the pony. Jiggers come in many different sizes, but I would recommend finding one that measures 1 1/2 ounces from the jigger and 1 ounce from the pony.

So, to measure out 1 1/2 ounces or 1 ounce becomes simply the task of using the correct side of the jigger. However, measures less than an ounce become a little tricky and could arguably be more accurate with the free pour. Because the jigger and pony are conical shaped you have to take that into account when you are measuring. For example to measure 1/2 ounce you would fill the pony slightly over half way. For a 3/4 ounce pour you would fill the jigger slightly over half way.

On a side note, it is thought that an egg cup was once used as a jigger until someone decided to market an egg cup as a measuring device and call it a jigger. (I'll have to do more research on this topic.)

One final method of measuring the pour is something called the finger method, a.k.a. eyeballing it. This method is usually done with ingredients that don't come in a standard liquor bottle such as, juice, cream, etc... Basically as it sounds, you simply pour the ingredient in a mixing glass and stop when you think you have the right amount in the glass. It is called the finger method because you can use your fingers held closely together at the bottom of the glass to act like a measuring mark for your pour. You may have heard someone order a drink by the fingers, "Give me 2 fingers of scotch on the rocks."

The shape of the glass, ice in the glass, the size of ice in the glass, and other ingredients in the glass, are all variables that make this measuring method very inaccurate. So if you are going to use this method of measuring for your non-bottled ingredients I would recommend always using the same mixing glass, measure the ingredient before adding ice, and test your pour as often as possible in the same way we did in the free pouring. Personally, I use a jigger for my non-bottled ingredients.

Now that you know how measuring the pour works you can actually double check your friendly neighborhood bartender to make sure they are not under pouring the vermouth in your Martini or Manhattan. ;)



Anonymous said...

I hope you and your family are safe and well.

Anonymous said...

This is a great description of free pouring. thank you!

Unknown said...

nice blog man keep it up

Unknown said...

great blog

Unknown said...

Isn't there a problem with the count though?

If you start on '1' as you start pouring, and finish on '6' for the ounce and half, there's actually five divisions there (6-1=5). Which means when you count to '4' or '2' instead, that won't work for the ounce/half ounce. It'll come up short.

You'll need to start on '0', or alternatively end on '7','5' or '3' for the various measures.

barmixmaster said...

You start the pour and then start counting. Sorry if that wasn't clear.


Meghan said...

generally speaking, would a 2-finger drink just be a double shot? in terms of quantity

barmixmaster said...

The 2 finger measure meant isn't very accurate. The amount really depends on the size/shape of the glass. I'd consider a double shot about 3oz. So I would measure 3oz accurately at least once, see where it comes to on the glass and then you could use the finger method going forward, assuming the same glass, and you are not super concerned about accuracy.

Anonymous said...

I was taught to use the 1 oz shot glass rather than a jigger to measure pours ... at bartender school no less.

Make sure you have a true shot glass ... some "shooter glasses" are undersized to fleece the college crowds, and the proper shape is critical if you want to measure with it.

If you do a slow pour into a shot glass, you will see that there is a point where it starts to widen near the top into a bell shape. If you look carefully, into the top of the shot glass when you pour, you will see how the fluid rises in the shot glass, and then at a certain point it starts to widen.

As your pour just begins to open up, that's 1/2 ounce. The full shot is 1 oz. when it's basically on the verge of overflowing.

It's quite accurate, once you practice a bit to find the sweet spot, it's unmistakable once you get it.

The 1/2 oz point seems quite high on the shot glass ... but once you find it, you know it and it's very repeatable. Because of the shape of a traditional shot glass, it's quite precise because the volume up to the 1/2 oz point is quite small.

It's quick ... quicker than standard jiggers (fast pour) if you use a regular open bottle of liquor like many home bartenders would. Mix right over the glass or shaker so any spill goes into the drink, although it's fairly easy to avoid over-pouring once you get the hang of it, and a quick turn of the wrist and it's in the mix & your shot glass is ready for more ingredients.

Now, it sounds a bit cumbersome to use a 1 oz shot to pour 1.5 oz of liquor in a drink. But it is very quick, easy, and repeatable.

But, the beauty of it isn't obvious until you start using it to mix cocktails at home or outdoors.

All you need is booze, ice, and a shot glass, and you can make very good measured drinks. And, although people who sample your drinks like how they taste, they get really impressed when they all taste the same, drink to drink.

Let's say you want to make a traditional margarita at standard strength (1.5 oz booze + mix @ 3:2:1) ... ignoring the fact that the margarita is made a hundred ways today.

The glass is chosen, it's rimmed and salted, etc.

1 shot of tequila strait from the bottle into the shot glass, pour into shaker, then your 1/2 oz shot of tequila into the shot glass. Now just fill the shot glass with Cointreau ... it will be 1/2 oz to the top. And a full shot (1 oz) of fresh squeezed lime juice. Shake and strain. Done.

** I live in Canada, where a legal single shot is a 1 oz drink; if you want more, you have to order a double (2 oz). This is because 1 oz 40%/80 proof liquor = 1 bottle (12 oz) 5%/volume beer = 5 oz quality wine in blood alcohol level.

I make my margaritas at 1 oz tequila, 1/2 oz lime juice, 1/4 oz Cointreau, or 4:2:1; at home I make 'em doubles at the same ratio.

Bernice said...

Actually, on the topic of how much liquor at 40%/80 proof is equivalent to a beer at 5%, you can find the equivalence through a little simple math to not be one ounce at 40% per 12 ounces at 5%, but to be 1.5 ounces 40% equivalent to 12 ounces at 5%.

The percentage is the percent of alcohol per unit volume. 5% means that in every ounce of fluid, 5% or 1/20 is alcohol. In 12 ounces of beer this is 1/20 times 12 equals 12/20 or 6/10 ounces of alcohol. For 1 ounce to have 6/10 ounces of alcohol in it, it would need to be at 60%, but for 1.5 ounces of liquid to have 6/10 ounces of alcohol it would need to be 40%. 1.5 ounces liquid times 4/10 (40%) alcohol by volume is 6/10 ounces of alcohol.

My comment here may seem a bit nit-picky, and certainly seems a bit over-emphasized (please excuse these two obvious flaws), but one 12 ounce beer at 5% is equivalent to one 1.5 ounce shot of liquor at 40%, rather than 1 ounce as stated in Anonymous's comment.

I did check out the "sweet spot" for a 1/2 ounce on a 1 ounce shot glass and did find it. Interesting information. It will certainly improve my measurement technique rather than making a guess for 1/2 ounces.

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand the counting do how much do I pour before I start counting

barmixmaster said...

You start counting at the same time you start pouring. Practice it as suggested in the article, you'll get the hang of it.

Unknown said...

How do you count 1/3? For example the shot 7 deadly sins 1/3 of the following in order layered over the back of a spoon into a shot glass...Bailey Irish cream, blue caracao, kahlua, sambuka, southern comfort, grenadine...

barmixmaster said...

It would depend on the size of the glass your using. If you want to be precise fill the glass to the point you want to fill your shot to with water. Then measure that water. Divide the number you get by 1/3 and off you go. However usually with shots like this eyeballing it works just fine.

Unknown said...

I'm surprised no one asked about the counting. How fast/slow are you counting? I was taught to count to 3. 1-2-3. slow-med count. are you counting fast? 1and2and3and4and5and6?

Unknown said...

the correct tempo is 126 beats per minute, use a metronome or download an app off the web. alternatively look for songs that have the 126bpm tempo.

barmixmaster said...

That's good advice Ken!

Anonymous said...

If you are asking this question at this time of day, I suggest you get some sleep and start over tomorrow! :)

Anonymous said...

Ok. So if someone orders two kamikaze shots what would the pour be into the shaker to make at once?? (Kamikaze=vodka, triple sec, n sweet n sour) What about 3 shots??

barmixmaster said...

Well a Kamikaze is equal parts: vodka, triple sec, and fresh lime juice... aka 1 part each.

We Nix Sour Mix on this site son.

Assuming your shot glasses are 2.5oz like mine you will want to target a 2oz shot + ice melt (1/4 x 2oz = 0.5)

Math... you learned it in grade school... (not trying to be a dick, just funny)

For 3 orders you need a total of 6oz of cocktail. There are 3 parts to the drink, so 1 part is 1/3 of the drink 3 x 1/3 = 1 so 1oz of each part.
1 oz vodka, 1oz triple sec, 1oz lime juice.

1 part is 4 a count

For 2 orders... 2 x 1/3 so 2/3oz of each part.

2/3 part is about 2.5 a count.

Reminder from the article... each count is 1/4 oz.

Hope this answered your question.

Anonymous said...

You're an idiot. You start pouring, wait 1 second, then start counting. It's that easy.

Unknown said...

Hello - I was recently told it is California State Law that a bartender must measure their drinks now - not free pour - and at my neighborhood bar, bartenders with 10-20 years experience are now having to measure each drink with a small glass. Is this true? I can find nothing on the internet about it. Thank you.

barmixmaster said...

You should probably call the State Attorney General's office.

Anonymous said...
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Cetkat said...

I just stumbled on this old post. Can you explain how substituting for sour mix works? Would you always use lime, or does it matter on the drink? I'm just a home bartender who has learned to replicate drinks from menu ingredients. There's one that's vodka, watermelon pucker (which I sub a good raspberry liqueur + sour apple), peach schnapps, splash sour & cranberry. The sour is the smallest part, but it does bring it together. Thoughts?

barmixmaster said...

You probably meant to post this on the Nix Sour Mix article. The answer to your question is yes. A sour mix you can buy at the store is a mix of both lime and lemon. If you use fresh lime and simple syrup the drink will be 100 times better.