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Will Jiggers Kill the Bar Star?


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... 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

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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.

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... 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.

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

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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.

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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

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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

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  • 4 weeks later...
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?

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".

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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.

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 (log)

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

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  • 5 months later...

I was at a Serious Cocktail Bar last night. (I know, I know . . . don't go on weekends.) This is one that everybody agrees is Serious, although it's somewhat out of the normal circuit of places we all think about.

Anyway, when it started getting crowded, I noticed that the bartender in front of me was measuring all the vodka sodas he was making (which constituted the vast majority of drinks people were ordering, despite the fact that this place's house cocktail menu is both fantastic and unique). I was very admiring of this, since it couldn't have been more obvious from the way they were acting that the people ordering the vodka sodas didn't give two shits about how they tasted (except insofar as they would have preferred that they didn't have a taste). This guy was measuring those drinks because he cared.

Once he got in the weeds, though, the bartender stopped measuring the vodka sodas, only measuring "real" cocktails (not that many were ordered).

I can't blame him.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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We were at PDT last week. I'd put one of the bartenders there -- sorry, I don't know his name, but he had an Australian (I think) accent -- up against anyone freepouring, counting or whatever. He measured everything, and was scary fast. In large part, this seemed to be because he knew exactly where everything was. He wasted zero time looking for bottles, double-checking what he'd grabbed, or holding something up to the light to tell what it was. He didn't even look; he just snatched in the place where he expected something to be, and he knew. Until I watched him, it hadn't occurred to me how much time is wasted on such exercises.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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The one area where freepouring makes some sense to me is when one is making a simple highball. Especially if you pour the liquor before adding the ice, if you know your glassware it is relatively simple to hit a consistent measure every time by just looking at the glass. And over/underpours aren't as critical in a highball anyway.

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A 2 year old can make a 2 ingrediant hiball, free pour your heart out. One more thing about why jiggering is so important is the education factor. That is recipe sharing and such. I can give my staff formulas and the tools (jiggers) to replicate drinks. More importantly think of people who are not bartenders who want to make recipes at home? Jiggers even make the novices produce on point. Also training a new bartender, whats simpler teaching them to jigger or freepour. Also whats more sure fire and consistent.

Jiggering = better drinks. Think of what you were drinking ten years ago.

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It's freepouring all the way for me. (with a few exceptions)

Making a good cocktail is about ratios, not specific measures. The spec for a particular drink maybe 75ml of liquid, but it doesn't matter if that's 70 or 80 as long as everything is in the right proportion.

Training staff to freepour proprerly is hard work but it shows definite dividends.

"Why are you holding a jigger in that hand when you could be holding another bottle instead?"

It makes a big difference when you're 3 or 4 deep at the bar. I'll make you a Sidecar - I'm going to start pouring the cognac and Cointreau at the same time. In this example I'm counting to six in my head to get the right amount of brandy. However, when I hit three the Cointreau comes off and my hand goes straight to the lemon juice.

Which ultimately works out that I've made the same drink, to the same standard, as another bartender whos been jiggering but it's taken me half the time.

I should add that all the staff get tested at the start of every shift, and I advocate frequent self testing mid shift - i.e. if you're puring a 25ml measure you freepour it then pour it from glass to jigger to see if you're right. If it's under it's topped up, if it's over then the customer gets a bargain - it's deliberately worked out so it's regulars who get the 'test' drinks

Cheers,

Matt

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I work at a free pouring bar but I would rather use jiggers. Sure I can free pour most cocktails but they are seriously not as good as the ones I make at home with jiggers. The pourers we use are unpredictable and as its been mentioned they pour at different rates for different liquors. I would rather use jiggers but a lot of people I work with see jiggers as the mark of an amateur.

For those that use jiggers how many sets do you use and how do you clean them between drinks?

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I'll weigh in on this on the side of freepouring, but will immediately point out I mean trained freepouring with the same spout (a SpillStop 285-50) on every bottle, spouts cleaned weekly and broken spouts replaced, each bartender tested with an ExactoPour or similar before each shift, and being required to hit a 90% score with both left and right hands. And once you've trained the staff on freepouring, they then need to be trained on mixology, because there is no point in knowing how to freepour accurately unless you can use that to make tasty drinks.

If you have never been in a bar like this - and I mean EXACTLY as I described above, no aberrations, no yes-we-pourtest-once-in-a-while-with-a-jigger nonsense, and no bars that pour beautifully but don't understand basic mixology principles - then it is very likely you will weigh in on the side of the jigger, and rightly so. Most of the world's best bars' bartenders could not pass a pour test, and do use jiggers. The link seems undeniable. But the jigger is just a tool. The most important tool for speed and accuracy is between a bartender's ears, not in his hands. If I want a good cocktail, I'll take an intelligent, trained bartender with neither spouts nor jiggers against a doofus with both, any day.

Any recipe, like a classic Daiquiri, where really exact measurements are needed, needs to be tested and adjusted before being served in any case, whether it's been jiggered or freepoured. The only advantage of trained-and-tested freepouring is speed, which can be quite the advantage.

The largest problem is now cocktail bars - the profusion of bars where every single order is a cocktail, and usually quite a nice one too (Disclosure - I own such a bar myself). This runs up the ticket times A LOT. Speed becomes even more important.

And the second is poor bar design. My own, God help me, has a glasswasher behind the bar, right under the cash register. Recent innovations like Calabrese sinks, dipper wells, glassware freezers (so glasses don't have to be pre-chilled), those nifty sprayer nozzles for rinsing shakers out, stainless-steel integrated peanut rails and the like, really do speed things up. And so, so very few bars have them.

Coaching staff on speed and efficiency is contentious: most bartenders think they are fast. Objective feedback (drinks per hour, productivity statistics, etc) is the way to go, and gives them something to work for.

In my own experience, most of the delays in ticket time come from non-drink-making activities: the bartender having to do barback duties that take him away from pure drinkmaking. Or simple things: let the waitstaff garnish the drinks while they're waiting.

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I should add that all the staff get tested at the start of every shift, and I advocate frequent self testing mid shift - i.e. if you're puring a 25ml measure you freepour it then pour it from glass to jigger to see if you're right.  If it's under it's topped up, if it's over then the customer gets a bargain - it's deliberately worked out so it's regulars who get the 'test' drinks

The customer get a bargain? The customer gets a crappy cocktail.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Freepourers, do you taste each drink with a straw? If not, how do you know that the drinks are balanced?

FWIW, I watched Jeff Morgenthaler fly through a mobbed Friday night at Clyde Common, measuring everything with jiggers, tasting every drink, and working more quickly than I'd have thought possible. Slower than someone freepouring wildly, I'm sure, but who wants to drink that stuff?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Freepourers, do you taste each drink with a straw? If not, how do you know that the drinks are balanced?

FWIW, I watched Jeff Morgenthaler fly through a mobbed Friday night at Clyde Common, measuring everything with jiggers, tasting every drink, and working more quickly than I'd have thought possible. Slower than someone freepouring wildly, I'm sure, but who wants to drink that stuff?

Right, there's also the proper handling of the ice, the proper stirring of the drink (or shaking, if it's a shaken cocktail), tasting, adjusting and everything else that goes into making a proper cocktail.

Getting the ingredients into the glass is probably the LEAST time consuming part of making that cocktail.

Of course, free pouring and then shaking that Manhattan - well, while that cocktail may taste OK, it's just not going to be as good as it can and should be - at $10 a pop.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Free pour a Tantris Sidecar consistently ten times in a row and I will never touch a jigger again.

Free pouring 1 to 2 oz at a time have a chance of being acurate. But the margin of error for .25 oz to .5 oz just is too large.

And again I will not admit to free pouring being faster if we take in quaility as factor. I have jiggered in bars 3 or 4 deep.

The only thing harder to believe that one can accurately free pour with one bottle is they can free pour with two. I'm not buying it with the exception of equal parts.

Any body heard of Ryan M's jumping jack test. You free pour test yourself and then do a 100 jumping jacks (to simulate fatigue of later in a shift) and then free pour test yourself again.

This just in: Speed is not the answer. Speed is well rum and coke out of a gun.

Efficiancy is most important.

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It seems that the arguement here is two-fold. Freepouring advocates are saying that the properly trained barkeep can: 1. make drinks faster than, and, 2. make them with the same accuracy as, a jiggering barkeep.

In respect to the first point, I disagree. Jiggers are important tools of my trade, and I feel that a professional should know and master his tools. That includes knowing how to use his jiggers with speed and dexterity. When I'm behind the slab, my jiggers are extentions of my hands. Master your tools, master your tools, master your tools.

Regarding the second point, I disagree with great, great enthusiasm. I simply cannot fathom a barkeep lining up four shakers, and then freepouring a Hemingway Daiquiri, a Tantris Sidecar, a Singapore Sling, and a Zombie (or any other Tiki Drink). No matter how highly trained in the freepouring arts, no matter how steady the pouring hand is, no matter how confident one may be in their bartending abilities...nobody can knock out those drinks with exacting accuracy by freepouring. Nobody.

The drink joint that I work at serves up cocktails at a volume on par with anyone in New York. And we pound out drinks by the bushelful using our jiggers.

It's just cold booze in a glass. Drink it, dammit.
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The one area where freepouring makes some sense to me is when one is making a simple highball.  Especially if you pour the liquor before adding the ice, if you know your glassware it is relatively simple to hit a consistent measure every time by just looking at the glass.  And over/underpours aren't as critical in a highball anyway.

Bingo. You win a prize!

We (Luke, in NOLA) have a pretty extensive list of house stuff. When learning how to make them, we require that folks use jiggers into dry glasses. Once you do it about a million times, you know exactly where it should be in the glass and when we are busy (almost every night) things speed up dramatically when the jigger is put aside.

Stuff where it's important to measure always, like Caiprinhas (mainly because we use freshly mooshed cane juice) and things that require juice and liquers in exact amounts (think Aviations with Luxardo) need to be measured to get a quality balance.

On the other hand, someone ordering Tanqueray and tonic gets it fast, as it's poured into a dry glass, iced, then hit with tonic. Piece of cake.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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I should add that all the staff get tested at the start of every shift, and I advocate frequent self testing mid shift - i.e. if you're puring a 25ml measure you freepour it then pour it from glass to jigger to see if you're right.  If it's under it's topped up, if it's over then the customer gets a bargain - it's deliberately worked out so it's regulars who get the 'test' drinks

The customer get a bargain? The customer gets a crappy cocktail.

Sorry, I should have phrased that a bit better. It would be with a spirit and mixer like a G&T - 27ml of gin rather than the specified 25ml is not going to make a huge amount of difference in that case.

One of the key points for me is many drinks are going to have to be straw tested and often adjusted before service whether you've freepoured or jiggered. Going gack to the sidecar as an example, the flavour profile of the lemon juice is going to vary from drink to drink which will have just as big an effect on the end flavour as a slight error in measurement of the spirits. The age of the ice will also make the cocktail deviate from its intended end flavour and texture. The important thing is knowing exactly how the ideal drink should taste and knowing how to tweak it to acheive this. It may need more Cointreau, or lemon, or cognac or a combination of two of these regadless of how the ingredients were poured.

I should admit though that in my earlier post I was probably a bit too enthusiastic in defence of freepouring - I will happily concede that there are certainly many examples where jiggering is the only way forward. I had just got in from a rather messy staff outing and was in that "I'm right about everything!" mood, I'm rather surprised I could still type to be honest!

Cheers,

Matt

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