Measures and measuring

Words by Simon Difford

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Measuring each ingredient accurately is essential to making consistently tasty cocktails so we present our recipes in ml, cl, and ounces. We've even developed our own Easy Jigger to make accurately measuring each ingredient in either ml or ounces even easier.

Originally, cocktail recipes were in "gill", "quart" and "pony" measures, then fluid ounces (oz) became pretty much the standard global cocktail measure and ounces remain the norm in North America. However, in the UK, Europe, Asia and much of the rest of the world, the ease and accuracy of measuring in millilitres (ml) have led to ounces becoming obsolete.

When fine-tuning the optimum proportion of one ingredient to another, while also pursuing a perfect fill level in the appropriate glass (wash-line), working in round ounces (30ml, or even half (15ml), quarter (7.5ml) or third-of-an-ounce (10ml) units is sometimes too restrictive. Working in millilitres makes measuring in smaller increments of 5ml (approx. 1/6oz) or even 2.5ml (approx. 1/12oz) easier to measure.

We round up 30ml to equal 1oz (it's actually 29.5735296ml) as this enables cocktail recipes in ounces easier to convert to millilitres. Conversely, some common measurements in ml aren't so easy to comprehend or measure in ounces. e.g. the standard legal UK spirits measure of 25ml equals an unfriendly five-sixths of an ounce, which, if you're measuring in ounces is best measured in two goes:

25ml = 1 x 2/3oz measure + 1 x barspoon (1/6oz) = 5/6oz

This is further complicated by those used to working with 25ml as the standard measure also thinking in fractions of that measure. Hence, 12.5ml is a common measure in European recipes, but this converts to an unfathomable two-fifths of an ounce from an American perspective.

12.5ml = one x 1/4oz measure + 1 x barspoon (1/6oz) = 2/5oz

The following table shows commonly used cocktail measures and their conversion from ml to oz. The green-to-red colour scheme indicates which measures convert easily and which are more awkward in ounces.

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What's a dash, and how many drops in a dash?

A drop dispensed from the pipette is the smallest bartending measure and after patiently dripping, counting, and measuring, I've found approx. 41 drops equal 1ml. How many drops equals a dash depends on what size you consider a dash to be, and that largely depends on your dasher – the same 1ml measure can be anything from 3 to 6 dashes (with Japanese bitters bottle dashers tending towards 6 dashes).

In the pursuit of consistency and accuracy, I prefer to use bitters bottles with dropper pipettes (e.g. Bob's Bitters) or replace the dashers on brands of bitters bottles such as Angostura and Peychaud's with DashDarts screwtops. I then work to:
12 drops = 1 dash
4 dashes = 1.25ml

What is a spoon? How big is a spoon?

In our recipes, a "spoon" is a volumetric measure of 5ml (1/6oz) and stems from bartenders traditionally measuring this volume with a barspoon. Indeed, Bonzer, one of the oldest barspoon brands, continue to design the bowls of their spoons to be exactly 5ml. Teaspoons are more variable in size, with bowl capacities ranging from 2.5 to 7.3ml but an average-sized teaspoon is approximately 5ml.

Liquid - You can measure 5ml (1/6oz) liquid using a barspoon or teaspoon but our Easy Jigger is more accurate.

Sugar - Once again, a barspoon will surface to measure a spoon of sugar (the amount that sits on the spoon after knocking rather than heaped) but a levelled chef's 5ml (1/6oz) stainless steel measuring spoon is preferable. I use a pestle and mortar to grind white caster sugar into powdered sugar and then use a 5ml chef's measuring spoon which I leave in the mortar, only briefly swapping for the pestle when topping up with fresh sugar. When not in use, I cover by placing a shallow bowl across the top of the mortar with the pestle nestled in the bowl.

Honey – Due to being easier to measure and use, I'm gradually moving our recipes away from using raw honey to honey syrup. However, when measuring spoons of honey, beware of honey remaining on the spoon from the previous measure affecting the accuracy of the next spoonful.

Easy Jigger

I'm sent recipes in ml and ounces with measured volumes (other than dashes) often as small as 1.25ml (1/24 oz or quarter a teaspoon). Over years of following and writing recipes, I dreamt of having an accurate jigger with graduations in both millilitres and ounces that started from 1.25ml / 1/24oz and ran all the way through the popular volumes to 60ml and 2oz. After a eureka moment with a plastic funnel, I told my friends at Bonzer about my idea and they produced what we call the Easy Jigger. I believe this is both the most accurate, easiest, quickest, and the most hygienic cocktail measure available.

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What is a "shot"

A shot is a measure of whatever size you want it to be, but ideally should be somewhere between a metric 25ml or one US fluid ounce measure. Whatever you use as your shot measure, be that a small shot glass, a medicine measure, or even a bucket, that same measure must be used for all the ingredients in a recipe so that the proportions of one ingredient to another end up as the recipe intends. Ideally, your chosen measure should have straight sides to enable you to judge fractions of a shot accurately.

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What size scoop to use for crushed ice

I favour a small clear Polycarbonate plastic scoop with drain slots for crushed ice as these don't impact the ice by conducting heat (unlike a metal scoop).

A scoop traditionally sold as being 6oz (177ml) or 7oz (207mm) is the perfect size. The bowl of the "7oz" scoop I use and we sell has internal dimensions of 130mm long, 73mm wide (at its widest point), and 46mm deep (at the deepest point). A heaped scoop using this measure may have a volume of 7oz, but when I tape up the holes and measure the volume of water the bowl of the scoop holds, its capacity is barely 4¼oz (125ml). A flat scoop of crushed ice (weighing approximately 95 grams / 3.3oz) with this scoop is plenty for a Frozen Daiquiri or Margarita to be served in a coupe.

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