Jigger me this; when is a shot not a shot? Answer: when it’s not measured.
There is an ongoing debate in the bartender/mixology world concerning the practice of “free pouring” versus measuring. I won’t keep you in suspense regarding my opinion on the matter. I strongly and without doubt or reservation vote for measuring. Since I live in Chicago I reserve my civic right to vote twice and three times when I am dead.
Every bar has a jigger or five so use the damn thing!
Strong proponents of free-pouring claim that not only is free-pouring faster, that’s not in doubt, but it’s just as accurate. Practice makes perfect and it is believed, by some, that after years of pouring drinks a good bartender can accurately and continually pour an ounce on command. With all due respect to those holding this philosophy (many friends included) I’m calling BS. If this incredible feat were to be true then every pourer would be equal, they’re not, and a nearly full bottle would pour at the same speed as a bottle three-quarters depleted.
When the last time that you picked up a cocktail recipe book and read “pour four seconds of Tequila followed by a second and a half of orange liqueur, and a second of limejuice”? Drinks are made from recipes and recipes call for measurements or more precisely they call for ratios. A great drink comes down to ratios, which creates balance.
Why does this matter? If you’re drink of choice is a Jack & Coke measuring is probably not the most important thing and likely it’s a bad thing, as you would prefer the bartender to go heavy on Jack and not as much on the Coke. Fair enough. If I am ordering a classic cocktail such as the Sidecar, the ratio of liqueur and simple syrup to citrus is very important. Further, it is very important to me, the customer, that this drink tastes the same each time I order.
Recently I was out enjoying cocktails (as I like to do) in both New York and Chicago. On four separate occasions I ordered more than one of the same cocktail during my visit. Sadly, I would have to say that all four establishments failed to provide a consistent drink. None of the drinks were “bad” but in each case one the drinks was balanced and preferred while one was out of balance. The culprit? Free-pouring doomed the drink and in one case sloppy measuring, which is just as bad, was to blame.
My question to you is why would you allow free-pouring? How do you cost out your drinks? Is it random or is it based on the cost of product? In each and every bar consultation I have done the establishment’s bottom-line was being killed by one or more bartenders over-pouring. If you’re selling 25 ounces of any particular spirit in a night while pouring 40 you’re days are numbered. Would you allow your chef to substitute a 16 ounce fillet for the 12 ounce fillet listed on the menu? Of course not, you would lose your shirt!
It’s time to lose this romanticized notion of free-pouring. Measuring drinks may not be good for Hollywood (see Tom Cruise in Cocktail) and it may not be good for those seeking a live show via “flare bartending” but it’s the only way to consistently pour balanced and proper cocktails. It’s time to embrace the jigger and to occasionally free it from your clutches to measure.