Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

Will Jiggers Kill the Bar Star?


  • Please log in to reply
83 replies to this topic

#31 thirtyoneknots

thirtyoneknots
  • participating member
  • 1,968 posts
  • Location:Texas

Posted 05 December 2008 - 12:18 PM

But how many cocktails are we talking about having over the course of the evening?

Well, I've been known to have as many as 15 to 17. But those were 8 hour nights.

View Post


Truly you are in need of a poet to record your mighty deeds!
Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

#32 slkinsey

slkinsey
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 11,116 posts
  • Location:New York, New York

Posted 05 December 2008 - 12:54 PM

I got a whole system worked out. :wink:
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#33 weinoo

weinoo
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 6,558 posts
  • Location:NYC

Posted 05 December 2008 - 01:52 PM

Well, I've been known to have as many as 15 to 17.  But those were 8 hour nights.

View Post

I'm sure that was one of those nights when you could be seen dancing on the bar and blowing blue flames out of your mouth.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
mweinstein@eGstaff.org
Tasty Travails - My Blog
My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs
Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

#34 slkinsey

slkinsey
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 11,116 posts
  • Location:New York, New York

Posted 05 December 2008 - 02:01 PM

Har. Well, it goes to show that there's no such thing as entirely accurate quoting.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#35 Chris Amirault

Chris Amirault
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 19,628 posts
  • Location:Rhode Island

Posted 05 December 2008 - 02:52 PM

I heard Dale DeGroff say much the same thing regarding the extra step of "dry shaking" egg white drinks. He commented that the extra step sacrifices expediency and has quipped something to the effect that it is superfluous artistry (my interpretation). Dale Degroff dealt with serious high volume during his time at the Rainbow Room and Hotel Bel Air. I can't imagine annoying Sinatra's entourage or Harry Nillson with jiggery and emulsifying. Dale's emphasis is service (and fresh ingredients), not necessarily Harold McGee and precision technique.

View Post


Having listened to Dale's presentation (with Dave Wondrich) at the NY Food & Wine Festival a few weeks ago and talked with him afterward, I don't have this sense at all. In fact, iirc, he referenced dry shaking when talking about the Ramos Gin Fizz, suggesting that it is, indeed, a good thing to do. In addition, in his new book, he makes several references to his handmade foams and directly compares his work to Adria's.

Methinks that this article plays up angle in which the disgruntled inventor poo-poos the new kids on the block, and it's just not that simple.
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics Signatory
Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

#36 David Steenkamp

David Steenkamp
  • participating member
  • 4 posts
  • Location:London UK

Posted 17 December 2008 - 04:49 PM

Ok, So lets say jigging is faster, its more accurate and it makes for a more consistant drink.Let us also assume that the years that I trained, practiced and perfected my 5 ml, 15 ml, 25 ml and 50 ml pours(Oz came later with american clientelle) , cleaned my cut to not spill a drop before I was allowed to free pour, were a waste of time...

Why do we not go the full Monty and use a machine, with perfectly pre measured ingredients, freshly squeezed juice, finely cut garnish, no spillage, stock shortages or customer complaints? This IS the best for ticket times isn't it?

#37 slkinsey

slkinsey
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 11,116 posts
  • Location:New York, New York

Posted 17 December 2008 - 07:12 PM

First off, while you may be able to accurately free pour 5 ml (that's one teaspoon for those of you in the New World) in perfect conditions, I can virtually guarantee you can't accurately give repeatable 5 ml pours under pressure in real world conditions.

As for the machine... let us suppose for a moment that it is possible to create a sanitary, affordable, reasonably-sized machine capable of mounting 300+ different bottles. While we're at it, let us suppose that the machine is also capable of adjusting for acidity levels of citrus, muddling herbs, etc. -- everything a bartender can do. It isn't possible, which makes this part of your argument moot, but let us suppose that it is. If it were possible for a machine to do everything that a bartender can do, then from the standpoint of what is in the customer's glass, there would perhaps be an infinitesimal improvement in quality and consistency. This would, however, remove the human interaction element that is as big part of the cocktail bar experience. And it would also make it prohibitively difficult for bartenders to create variations or new cocktails all' improviso.

But it is a false argument to assert that jiggering and robotics are fundamentally similar. You want the creative element, sure, but you also want reproducibility. I may want an architect to design my gallery by inspiration, but I want the guys building it to use measuring tools. I am the first person to say that a bartender can create a great drink using the "little bit of this and a dash of that" freepouring method. But if he has no real idea how much of this and that he put in the glass, there is no way he will be able to make the same thing next time around -- much less help another bartender at the bar learn how to make it. And if I go into a bar wanting their Such-and-Such Cocktail, I want it to be the same as I had last time. I want it to be the one I like. I don't want that "just barely there" subtle hint of Chartreuse that your friend made me on a slow Wednesday night to hit me in the mouth when you make it on a busy Friday night because he poured 4 ml of Chartreuse and you poured 7 ml (both thinking it was 5).

But, really... the bottom line is that I am not aware of very many freepouring cocktail lounges that do heavy business and serve a wide variety of complex cocktails a top quality. I'm sure a few exist (and even more assume they are) but the vast majority of which I am aware use jiggers.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#38 David Steenkamp

David Steenkamp
  • participating member
  • 4 posts
  • Location:London UK

Posted 18 December 2008 - 02:25 AM

Ok Kinsey point taken on my friend pouring 4 ml and me pouring 6 ml. I do also realise that when we speak in terms of a group in general, the vast majority of bartenders’ "free pouring" is a joke.

But getting back to our hypothetical machine, we have agreed that it would not replace a bartender because of the human element. If a perfect machine can not replace us, (touch wood god forbid) what is it that makes it a better drink?

Would we go out to a bar that has the ingredients for a widows kiss, premixed in a bottle and perfectly balanced measured to a 0.0001 ml per drink.
If all the bartender does is pour it in your glass, I guess not.
If this is the norm we could just as well say that every bartender should have a book in front of him when he is busy lest he forget an ingredient from the recipe, which I can virtually guarantee could happen under pressure in real world conditions.

Lets face it more than half the argument for jigging is the showmanship, it looks (when done properly) fantastic in the right establishment for the right drinks.
The same can be said about “free pouring morons”.
My customers like it when I free pour, They can see I put my heart and soul in the effort, they can see I have a passion for my job and I try to make Every drink the best one I have ever made, I’m not saying they don’t see it when I jig but THAT is the human element and it is my style. Just as free pouring has its place behind the bar so does jigging, neither is a sign of a better bartender nor experience nor results in the significantly better drink. IMHO

PS: One night 3 years ago I did a temp shift in Peppermint Dubai. They had this drinks machine that made 50 “cocktails”incl cosmos martinis manhattans etc, while not perfect it was a scary thought.
Secondly I found jigging more challenging than free pouring especially this side of the pond with those stupidly shaped goverment approved jiggers; after a long time I can do it cleanly, accurately and quickly. I still look like a buffoon when using it though.

#39 cax77uk

cax77uk
  • participating member
  • 21 posts
  • Location:Abu Dhabi, UAE

Posted 18 December 2008 - 04:08 AM

Having worked in jigger bars and free pouring bars, I have to agree that over a busy shift, knocking out many varied cocktails, a jigger will obviously win when it comes to accuracy. However, I've seen just as many bartenders over/under pour with a jigger as I have their freeporing counterparts. Plus there are those who freepour into a jigger (pouring 10 ml into a 30 ml jigger for instance!).
I think what it ultimately comes down to is the professionalism of the bartender, having the correct mise-en-place, and organisation. It really isn't rocket science and as others have stated, it should be FUN!
Way too many bartenders take themselves far to seriously. Sure you can make the perfect Aviation, but do you leave me feeling better than when I arrived and do I want to come back and bring my friends!
RM
[SIZE=1]i´d rather have a full bottle in front of me than a full frontal labotomy! Fred Allen.[/I][SIZE=1]

#40 Chris Amirault

Chris Amirault
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 19,628 posts
  • Location:Rhode Island

Posted 18 December 2008 - 06:07 AM

Sure you can make the perfect Aviation, but do you leave me feeling better than when I arrived and do I want to come back and bring my friends!

View Post


If you make me the perfect Aviation, then I leave feeling better and want to come back with friends. I've also enjoyed talking to you about how well you make drinks.

If you make me -- and, more to the point, I pay for and spend a while talking with you about and drinking -- a crappy Aviation, then I leave feeling like I wasted my money and time and sat across from the person who wasted it. I'm not coming back.
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics Signatory
Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

#41 slkinsey

slkinsey
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 11,116 posts
  • Location:New York, New York

Posted 18 December 2008 - 08:45 AM

But getting back to our hypothetical machine, we have agreed that it would not replace a bartender because of the human element. If a perfect machine can not replace us, (touch wood god forbid) what is it that makes it a better drink?

I'm not quite sure I understand your question. Theoretically, the more accurately measured and balanced and calibrated for perfect temperature, etc. that a cocktail may be, the better the cocktail. Ultimately, it seems likely that a sophisticated machine could achieve far higher levels of accuracy and consistency than a human being. Whether the difference in possible levels of accuracy and consistency is above or below the threshhold of human perception (I suspect below) is another question. But this is not a real-world question, I believe.

Would we go out to a bar that has the ingredients for a widows kiss, premixed in a bottle and perfectly balanced measured to a 0.0001 ml per drink.  If all the bartender does is pour it in your glass, I guess not.

This is true of many top cocktail bars that do any real volume. Take, for example, Audrey's famous "Tantris Sidecar" that has been a signature cocktail at the Pegu Club since they opened. It contains one 1 ounce pour, four half-ounce pours and two quarter-ounce pours (that's seven pours to make one cocktail). All the bartenders, of course, know how to make this cocktail to order. But when it comes to busy Friday and Saturday nights, the cocktail (perhaps minus the citrus?) is batched and then shaken out on an individual basis.

If this is the norm we could just as well say that every bartender should have a book in front of him when he is busy lest he forget an ingredient from the recipe, which I can virtually guarantee could happen under pressure in real world conditions.

Again, many of the top cocktail bars have a copious collection of historical recipe books, as well as a database of house formulae. I never think there's anything wrong with the bartender referring to a book if it's a non-standard cocktail. On many occasions I've had a bartender mix me something from a book they had recently been perusing (recently this included, for example, the Parkeroo and the Hoffman House Fizz).

Lets face it more than half the argument for jigging is the showmanship, it looks (when done properly) fantastic in the right establishment for the right drinks.  The same can be said about “free pouring morons”.  My customers like it when I free pour, They can see I put my heart and soul in the effort, they can see I have a passion for my job and I try to make Every drink the best one I have ever made, I’m not saying they don’t see it when I jig but THAT is the human element and it is my style. Just as free pouring has its place behind the bar so does jigging, neither is a sign of a better bartender nor experience nor results in the significantly better drink. IMHO

I don't know that I agree that jiggering is about the showmanship. But, honestly, flair is just not a big part of the NYC cocktail scene. Efficient and graceful movement, a particular shaking movement, perhaps a flick of the wrist as the tin is taken away... that's about as far as it goes.

I guess I have to disagree as to whether I think jiggering is a sign of a good cocktailian bartender and a good cocktail bar. Or, rather, I would say that in my experience freepouring is usually, if not unequivocally, a reliable sign that one is not in a top-level cocktail bar. There are a few outstanding counterexamples, of course.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#42 Tristan Stephenson

Tristan Stephenson
  • participating member
  • 13 posts

Posted 18 December 2008 - 10:06 AM

Freepouring is generally frowned upon by the bartending elite in the UK. The 5ml barspoon example says it all. We all use jiggers to measure spirits and it really has nothing to do with showmanship, just that it is the best and most efficient way to get a balanced drink.
Tristan Stephenson - The Wild Drink Blog

#43 haresfur

haresfur
  • participating member
  • 1,168 posts
  • Location:Bendigo Australia

Posted 18 December 2008 - 06:55 PM

...snip...

But it is a false argument to assert that jiggering and robotics are fundamentally similar.  You want the creative element, sure, but you also want reproducibility.  I may want an architect to design my gallery by inspiration, but I want the guys building it to use measuring tools.  I am the first person to say that a bartender can create a great drink using the "little bit of this and a dash of that" freepouring method.  But if he has no real idea how much of this and that he put in the glass, there is no way he will be able to make the same thing next time around -- much less help another bartender at the bar learn how to make it.  And if I go into a bar wanting their Such-and-Such Cocktail, I want it to be the same as I had last time.  I want it to be the one I like.  I don't want that "just barely there" subtle hint of Chartreuse that your friend made me on a slow Wednesday night to hit me in the mouth when you make it on a busy Friday night because he poured 4 ml of Chartreuse and you poured 7 ml (both thinking it was 5).

View Post


Hmm, I'm not so sure about the above. Part of the art may be to allow for human variability. Your example implies that there is a "right" way for a drink to taste. Maybe it would be more interesting to have multiple similar but different variations on a theme.

Think about wine: part of the fun is that a 2002 Chateau de Pompous is different from a 2003. And maybe a slow Wednesday drink should taste different from a busy Friday one. Bonus points for matching the drink to the ambiance and double bonus for matching it to an understanding of the customer's mood. Just a thought.

I'm sort of coming at this from a pottery background: You can use various sorts of machines (like jiggers :wink:) to make pots uniform but IMO you risk losing their "soul". Or if you prefer a musical analogy, would you want a live concert to sound just like the CD?
It's almost never bad to feed someone.

#44 Tristan Stephenson

Tristan Stephenson
  • participating member
  • 13 posts

Posted 19 December 2008 - 01:52 AM

I agree with that to a certain extent. I think it's nice if different bartenders have a different take on a drink, giving them the chance to engage the customer and discuss how they would like their cocktail.

At the end of the day though, there are certain drinks which have very little area for adjustment in my opinion. A daiquiri for example is a pretty subtle balance, free"juicing" 12.5ml of lime juice and freepouring half that in gomme is not easy, but get it wrong and the drink will be off balance rather than unique.

I have a background of working in restaurant bars, which is a lot different to a service bar. You work more like a liquid chef simply because there is no direct interaction between the bartender and customer - consistency is very important. That is consistency between your own drinks, but also between individual bartenders. If a customer is receiving a different tasting, different colour, differently garnished drink every time, they're going to be wondering what is going on.

I also think that even working with jiggers still allows for some creative flair. Just because a full one is 25ml (or 1oz) doesn't mean that you have to pour 25ml, but at least you know when you are or you aren't.
Tristan Stephenson - The Wild Drink Blog

#45 slkinsey

slkinsey
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 11,116 posts
  • Location:New York, New York

Posted 19 December 2008 - 09:59 AM

. . . Part of the art may be to allow for human variability.  Your example implies that there is a "right" way for a drink to taste.  Maybe it would be more interesting to have multiple similar but different variations on a theme.

No. Accidental, error-based differences are not "part of the art" of making a cocktail. This is not skilled "variation on a theme." Rather, it is variability based on a lack of precision in measuring. The busy Friday night bartender should be able to make the drink exactly the same as the slow Wednesday night bartender. Would you think it was "part of the art" if you went to a restaurant on a slow Wednesday night and got your steak exactly medium-rare with a perfectly calibrated sauce, and then when you went there on a busy Friday night the steak was cooked medium and the sauce was less salty and more acidic? Of course not.

Intentional variation of amounts, which may be appropriate to some cocktails (e.g., the Martini) far more than others (e.g., the aforementioned Tantris Sidecar), is another thing entirely. But a big part of this has to be that the bartender knows what he's putting in the glass, and how much of it. I have never had a truly outstanding freepoured Martini. And it should be pointed out that mixing a cocktail is related to, but not the same thing as cooking.

First of all, the vast majority of cocktail ingredients are far more standardized than the raw ingredients available to a cook.

Second, a cook preparing, say, a tomato sauce can taste, add a little bit of this, a dash of that, maybe a pinch more salt... and eventually come up with a sauce that is more or less in the acceptable range of his usual marinara, and no less delicious for being prepared by an entirely intuitive, entirely unmeasured, "make it up as you go" process. This is not really possible with a cocktail. It doesn't take multiple hours to prepare a cocktail, and there are not multiple opportunities for tasting and adjustment. Pre-tasting cocktails is largely a matter of error-correcting: you're trying to make sure the lemon juice isn't off and that you remembered to put in the simple syrup rather than trying to figure out whether the indeterminate splash of vermouth you threw into the glass is too much or too little for the Blood and Sand you're making. A bartender isn't going to "taste his way into a great cocktail" the way a cook can "taste his way into a great marinara sauce." Indeed, there is some question in my mind as to whether tasting for any reason other than error correction has much validity when you are tasting the ingredients pre-dilution, pre-shaking and at room temoperature. Meanwhile, the bartender's ability to make mid-course corrections after the cocktail is chilled and strained are extremely limited.

The best bartenders coming up with the best cocktails, in my observation, often spend hours trying endless variations on a theme (try it with this bourbon, then that bourbon, then that other bourbon, then how about rye, then how about a mix of rye and applejack, then this much lemon juice, then a little less, then a mix of lemon and lime, etc, etc, etc.) until they have refined their creation to its best possible iteration. This is the time for a "dash of this and a splash of that" technique, although needless to say, measuring the constituents of the experiments is key to reproducing the successful outcomes later. Phil Ward's "Cooper Union", for example, is already going to turn out different, and probably not as good, if it's made with Jameson's instead of Red Breast, and a rinse of Talisker instead of Laphroaig. It's surely not going to turn out quite right if it includes 50% more St. Germain than it's supposed to have. This means the customer would be getting a cup of mediocrity instead of a symphony in a glass. Again, if you're making a Sidecar and you want to go 2 ounces cognac, 1 ounce Cointreau and a touch less than an ounce of lemon juice because the cognac you're using is a dry one... using a jigger is just the right way to know that you're really putting in just a touch less than an ounce.

Or if you prefer a musical analogy, would you want a live concert to sound just like the CD?

Since classical music is my business, this makes perfect sense to me. What I want is for the piece to be rehearsed, and for the performance to reflect that rehearsal. I don't want my aria to start and for the conductor to make an error and go 50% slower with twice the volume from the brass. I don't want my cocktails to be like a bunch of guys in their garage thinking they're the next incarnation of the Grateful Dead.

I also think that even working with jiggers still allows for some creative flair. Just because a full one is 25ml (or 1oz) doesn't mean that you have to pour 25ml, but at least you know when you are or you aren't.

Yes, exactly. Making some intentional changes in a deliberate way, where you understand the change you have made, just how much of a change you have made, and the likely effect of that change is not the same as having changes happen due to measurement error.

Edited by slkinsey, 19 December 2008 - 10:02 AM.

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#46 thirtyoneknots

thirtyoneknots
  • participating member
  • 1,968 posts
  • Location:Texas

Posted 19 December 2008 - 10:58 AM

Pre-tasting cocktails is largely a matter of error-correcting:  you're trying to make sure the lemon juice isn't off and that you remembered to put in the simple syrup rather than trying to figure out whether the indeterminate splash of vermouth you threw into the glass is too much or too little for the Blood and Sand you're making.  A bartender isn't going to "taste his way into a great cocktail" the way a cook can "taste his way into a great marinara sauce."  Indeed, there is some question in my mind as to whether tasting for any reason other than error correction has much validity when you are tasting the ingredients pre-dilution, pre-shaking and at room temoperature.

View Post


I think Gary Regan might disagree with you here, in fact he seems to think this is the best way to learn drinks, if Joy of Mixology is any indicator. Not saying I agree or disagree.
Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

#47 slkinsey

slkinsey
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 11,116 posts
  • Location:New York, New York

Posted 19 December 2008 - 11:01 AM

I think it's possible to do that in development, and it can be a good learning tool, but not consistently in execution.

Edited by slkinsey, 19 December 2008 - 11:03 AM.

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#48 David Steenkamp

David Steenkamp
  • participating member
  • 4 posts
  • Location:London UK

Posted 19 December 2008 - 05:35 PM

Mr. Kinsey, I am going to keep this (relatively)short. Its Friday night, its December and I am tired. So sorry if I sound rude it is all still meant in the spirit of the banter.

Firstly I don’t know when we started conversing on Flairing. I don’t go to the circus to order a drink; I don’t go to the bar to see a clown.

I don’t know when we started talking about chefs and sauce either but since it is brought up; Line cooking and bartending are two completely different things.

The fact that you refer to my pouring as error based offends me. You have never tasted my drinks nor have you done a pour test on me or any of my staff members that I train. Do you think I just chuck in two fingers and some for luck?

Not filling up a jigger defies the point completely and makes this conversation null and void.

Just because “Audrey” does it doesn’t make it right. Same goes for Dale, Gary, David, Jamie, Jeffrey or Robert. If they ALL agree then it obviously is, but I am nowhere near experienced enough to argue with them.

And finally in what bar do you work that allows you to just go through bottles of bourbon and rye and applejack etc. etc... so you can "develop" instead of "tasting consistently in execution"? And please don’t say Audrey does it…

#49 slkinsey

slkinsey
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 11,116 posts
  • Location:New York, New York

Posted 19 December 2008 - 05:54 PM

David, for goodness sake, don't take it personally.

Freepouring has a larger margin for error than using jiggers. I don't see how you, or indeed anyone could possibly argue otherwise. It's simply a fact. I could bore you with detailed explanations of the various reasons why this is true, but I believe I outlined most of them above in post #9 in reasonably detailed layman's language. So, to suggest that yours or indeed anyone's freepouring in real-world conditions necessarily involves a certain amount of error greater than a similarly skilled bartender using jiggers is not meant as an insult. It is simply stating a fact. You, yourself said, "point taken on my friend pouring 4 ml and me pouring 6 ml." Skilled bartenders at using jiggers are not likely to have a 2-3 ml discrepancy using a powerful ingredient such as Chartreuse. And yet, perhaps even more skilled bartenders will never be able to approach this level of accuracy freepouring. That equals error. I don't have to test you on it. I am quite aware of the limits of human perception. I earned a degree studying this kind of thing.

I think your assertion that "not filling up a jigger defies the point completely and makes this conversation null and void" reflects an incomplete understanding of the variables involved here. Let's say that one is making the hypothetical Sidecar I mentioned above (2 ounces cognac, 1 ounce Cointreau, just a touch less than an ounce of fresh lemon). If you freepour, there are four opportunities for error: 1. the two ounce pour of cognac; 2. the ounce pour of Cointreau; 3. the slightly less than once ounce pour of lemon juice; and 4. whether or not, taking into account the possibility for error in pouring the ounce of Cointreau, the lemon juice pour is actually smaller than the Cointreau pour, and by how much. If one is using a jigger, there is only one possibility for error: mow much less than one ounce of lemon juice are you going to pour. And since the bartender will have the static visual reference of the jigger to judge just how much less than full the jigger is filled, this possibility has a much smaller margin for error than any one of the four possibilities when one is freepouring. Again, it is a simple fact that it is easier to look in a jigger and judge that there is a tiny line remaining before the jigger is full than it is to make a volume judgment by counting or watching a stream of liquid (never mind that flow rates will be different depending on the fullness of the bottle, the nature of the pour top, the temperature and viscosity of the liquid, etc.).


As to bars that stock multiple brands of bourbon, rye, cognac, etc. that bartenders are able to experiment with in creating and refining their cocktails (which is what I mean by "developing")? Some have more brands than others, but I would say that all the top cocktail bars in NYC stock multiple brands of various spirits. This would include, off the top of my head and in no particular order, Pegu Club, Flatiron Lounge, PDT, Death & Company and Clover Club. Milk & Honey does not have as much spirit redundancy as most bars here of their calibre due to severe space constraints. I have literally sat at the bar on many occasions as bartenders have mixed, tasted and evaluated over a dozen iterations of a cocktail they're working on, and they have been known to refine their ideas and creations over periods of weeks occasionally months before putting them on a menu. And this is the reason these people are known as the best of the best.


Again, I cannot of course speak for everyone and I am sure there are a few oustanding counterexamples. But I'd say that 100% of the top cocktail bars in NYC are jiggering bars, and that 95% of the top cocktailian bartenders of which I am aware use jiggers. Tristan seems to indicate that a similar percentage would be true among the top cocktail bars and top cocktailian bartenders in London.

Edited by slkinsey, 19 December 2008 - 06:13 PM.

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#50 Tristan Stephenson

Tristan Stephenson
  • participating member
  • 13 posts

Posted 20 December 2008 - 04:42 AM

And finally in what bar do you work that allows you to just go through bottles of bourbon and rye and applejack etc. etc... so you can "develop" instead of "tasting consistently in execution"? And please don’t say Audrey does it…

View Post


Back when I was bartending (I'm now a trainer), I very much encouraged the development and evolution of cocktails by trying different spirits and different brands. Excellent cocktails very rarely appear out of thin air, they are worked upon and given space to flourish. Of course you need to be working at an establishment that encourages that sort of behaviour, but as Samuel rightly says - the best bars will always inspire their staff to nurture their creations.

I went round to Simon Difford's (blatant name check) a couple of months ago and he was busy developing a drink. With about six subtle iterations sat on the front of the bar he was able to check every variation and adjust accordingly... and no, he didn't use a jigger... Simon had a much more precise tapered measuring cup that I would really like to get hold of myself!

Edited by Tristan Stephenson, 20 December 2008 - 04:44 AM.

Tristan Stephenson - The Wild Drink Blog

#51 KatieLoeb

KatieLoeb
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 9,156 posts
  • Location:Philadelphia

Posted 20 December 2008 - 12:40 PM

... Simon had a much more precise tapered measuring cup that I would really like to get hold of myself!


One of these OXO Mini measuring cups perhaps?

I have two - one plastic and one stainess steel. They are definitely what I use for recipe development. After the recipe is tweaked to it's final form, then I switch to jiggers at the bar.

I've seen these OXO jiggers at various gourmet supply shops, hardware stores and department store housewares departments. Not too hard to find and they're all over online as well.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol


#52 haresfur

haresfur
  • participating member
  • 1,168 posts
  • Location:Bendigo Australia

Posted 20 December 2008 - 05:32 PM

No.  Accidental, error-based differences are not "part of the art" of making a cocktail.  This is not skilled "variation on a theme."  Rather, it is variability based on a lack of precision in measuring.  The busy Friday night bartender should be able to make the drink exactly the same as the slow Wednesday night bartender.  Would you think it was "part of the art" if you went to a restaurant on a slow Wednesday night and got your steak exactly medium-rare with a perfectly calibrated sauce, and then when you went there on a busy Friday night the steak was cooked medium and the sauce was less salty and more acidic?  Of course not.

I partially agree with you. I think it depends on what is within tolerance and what it outside tolerance. I question your idea of a 50% error - at least for the major ingredients. I'm no expert but I suspect a practiced bartender can free-pour many drinks within my tolerance. I tell people (on the rare occasions it comes up in conversation) that a good chemist is one who knows when to be "sloppy". Ironically, the greatest % errors are in the small additions - where you find dashes instead of micro-pipettes. But my point is that it may be possible to emphasize precision to the point of losing soul.

Since classical music is my business, this makes perfect sense to me.  What I want is for the piece to be rehearsed, and for the performance to reflect that rehearsal.  I don't want my aria to start and for the conductor to make an error and go 50% slower with twice the volume from the brass.  I don't want my cocktails to be like a bunch of guys in their garage thinking they're the next incarnation of the Grateful Dead.

Well maybe that's the difference between classical music and the Dead. How much room do you make for improvisation? It can be there in both. I just just don't have the expertise to tell when you guys are deviating from performance to performance. I agree, for drinks or any art, the changes should be mostly deliberate, but I don't mind leaving a little room for serendipity.
It's almost never bad to feed someone.

#53 Tristan Stephenson

Tristan Stephenson
  • participating member
  • 13 posts

Posted 21 December 2008 - 04:33 AM

... Simon had a much more precise tapered measuring cup that I would really like to get hold of myself!


One of these OXO Mini measuring cups perhaps?

I have two - one plastic and one stainess steel. They are definitely what I use for recipe development. After the recipe is tweaked to it's final form, then I switch to jiggers at the bar.

I've seen these OXO jiggers at various gourmet supply shops, hardware stores and department store housewares departments. Not too hard to find and they're all over online as well.

View Post


That's the one! - Thanks for the link. He was using the plastic one, which I suppose doesn't look as nice, but you can see through it.
Tristan Stephenson - The Wild Drink Blog

#54 David Steenkamp

David Steenkamp
  • participating member
  • 4 posts
  • Location:London UK

Posted 21 December 2008 - 07:17 AM

Kinsley :D I did not take it that personally.
As I said; Friday and December.

You have to understand that I am challenging a notion that was the complete opposite of how I was trained. If I switch over to jigging now I would feel that I wasted all that time years ago to perfect my pour which was the sign of "a good cocktail bartender” in the past. ( but so was frozen drinks and blue Curacao).

Truth be told I am, jigging at the moment. I recently came back to London after working a bit in the states and switching back over to thinking in ml took a while to get used to. Further more, whenever I start a new job, I Jig the house drinks so I can get used to the menu and learn the recipes quicker.

I also know a lot of my "role models" the ppl I look up to in the industry are these days encouraging the use of jiggers. Simon Difford said his dream is to see all bartenders measure their pours. Jamie Boudreaux never does anything without precise measurements either .Gary Regan the rebel still claims he doesn’t know how to use one but looking at the greater part of the cocktail movement it is becoming the norm as you say.

Because of this reason I have been contemplating for a while now to stick to jigging and also training my staff to do the same. BUT I have this empty feeling when I make these drinks that it lacks a personal touch whenever I serve it. When they ask me too make them the best drink I can, I don’t get a “WOW!” anymore, its more like a “good drink recipe” response.

#55 Mattmvb

Mattmvb
  • participating member
  • 71 posts
  • Location:Birmingham, UK

Posted 22 December 2008 - 06:05 AM

Personally I sit somewhere in the middle ground here. I do like freepouring, I honestly think it looks better, and is quicker - maybe not much but even a second or two per drink adds up over the course of a long busy night.

However, it's a matter of understanding when it is appropriate. It's a given that free pouring is not as accurate as measuring so you need to understand the drink you are making. To repeat a previous example there will obviously be a large difference in the taste of a finished cocktail between one that had 4ml Chartreuse and one with 6ml, so anything needing a powerful ingredient will be measured - I always have a set of small measuring spoons from 1ml up for this purpose. The same goes for anything where correct balance between ingredients needs to be exact.

There are a large number of drinks where this doesn't hold true though. For instance, is it going to make an appreciable difference to a Tom Collins whether I use 48ml or 52ml of gin - the difference in taste between individual lemons will surely have a greater effect, as will the difference in ice quality at different stages of the evening.

The previous point made about bitters is also an interesting one, is the whole point of careful measuring nullified in cases where you are adding bitters by the dash? Of course you could measure bitters scientificlaly via pipette but it's not something I ever see, if you're not doing this then do you have a clue how big this dash is compared to the last one?

Also, one the interesting points about the inaccuracy of free pouring is that it changes as the night goes on. If you don't watch yourself you will pour shorter when you are busy due to the change in your perception of time, but this will have the same effect on all pours so the relative quantities should stay the same.

Finally, one thing that never ceases to amaze me is when I see bartenders carefully measuring spirit (etc) quantities only to then splash an indeterminate amount of fruit juice on top!

Cheers,

Matt

#56 eje

eje
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 4,359 posts
  • Location:San Francisco, CA

Posted 22 December 2008 - 12:43 PM

As a home drink maker, it took me far too many inconsistent and bad drinks to realize that I do need to measure.

Well, that and that a cocktail with 4oz of booze isn't necessarily better than a cocktail with 2oz of same.

Having learned these couple things, I try to pass the lessons on, but it is often hard going, even in the face of obvious facts, to get friends to start measuring their drinks.

To a lot of them, I think, it just seems stingy or anal. "Why aren't you giving me more booze?"

I've heard some of the same, I suppose, from bartenders and patrons. Measure with a jigger into an empty clear pint glass and it just looks like less booze than if you free pour into ice. Even if the amount you end up straining into the glass is the same.

Ultimately, counting and jiggers are just tools to get to the same place: consistent well made drinks.

Do either with style, panache, and authority and it looks impressive. Do either badly, and I'll stick with a beer, thank you very much.
---
Erik Ellestad
If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...
Bernal Heights, SF, CA

#57 GordonCooks

GordonCooks
  • participating member
  • 2,550 posts
  • Location:Rochester, NY

Posted 22 December 2008 - 02:43 PM

With jiggers, for the high end places, it maintains the integrity of the recipe. For lower end, it's necessary inventory control.

#58 freshherbs

freshherbs
  • participating member
  • 180 posts

Posted 24 December 2008 - 05:46 PM

someone call carlo petrini...this conversation sounds familiar

one other snag on free-pouring vs jiggering: the guala cap. you know, that piece of plastic in some imported spirits/liqueurs. screws my pour up every time...

Edited by freshherbs, 24 December 2008 - 05:46 PM.


#59 Shamanjoe

Shamanjoe
  • participating member
  • 312 posts
  • Location:Downey, CA

Posted 17 January 2009 - 12:02 AM

Ok, So lets say jigging is faster, its more accurate and it makes for a more consistant drink.Let us also assume that the years that I trained, practiced and perfected my 5 ml, 15 ml, 25 ml and 50 ml pours(Oz came later with american clientelle) , cleaned my cut to not spill a drop before I was allowed to free pour, were a waste of time...

Why do we not go the full Monty and use a machine, with perfectly pre measured ingredients, freshly squeezed juice, finely cut garnish, no spillage, stock shortages or customer complaints? This IS the best for ticket times isn't it?

View Post


You can get one of those, for only $700 or so. It's called the lazy bartender, and it looks like a medusa's head. I find it laughable that anybody would get it, not to mention that 1)it pours all liquids in sequence 2)they go straight into the glass, and are "mixed" by virtue of the pour itself, and 3)it looks only to make rocks drinks, nothing shaken. I'd just skip it altogether in favour of real craftsmanship.
"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

#60 Mattzilla

Mattzilla
  • participating member
  • 9 posts
  • Location:Los Angeles

Posted 17 January 2009 - 03:07 PM

Ultimately, counting and jiggers are just tools to get to the same place: consistent well made drinks.

Do either with style, panache, and authority and it looks impressive.  Do either badly, and I'll stick with a beer, thank you very much.

View Post


I agree. I think it's all about being familiar and comfortable with the tools you have at your disposal. I would probably trust a veteran free-pourer to make my sidecar just as much as I would trust a veteran jigger-pourer if that is how they felt the most comfortable.

...and of course, a lot of it comes down to style and confidence when dealing with the public.

Edited by Mattzilla, 17 January 2009 - 03:16 PM.

Red Bull/Vodka is the downfall of civilization...