Words by: Simon Difford
Balancing each ingredient within a cocktail is key to making a great drink. Therefore the accuracy with which ingredients are measured is critical to the finished cocktail.
On this website, we default to expressing the measures of each ingredient in 'shots'. Ideally, a shot is one US fluid ounce (29.6ml) or the standard bar measure in your country (25ml in the UK for example).
Accurate measurement of liquids is best achieved by weight rather than volume but weighing each ingredient is impractical for cocktail making so measurement is best achieved by use of a jigger or a graduated measure. If you don't have one of these then a clean medicine measure or even a small shot glass will suffice so long as you follow our 'shot' recipes and use the same device to measure volume. Then each ingredient will be at the correct ratio to the others.
When using a jigger, particularly a round jigger, beware of the dome-shaped meniscus created by surface tension. To measure a full measure most jiggers require filling to the brim with the liquid's meniscus (the curve on the surface) appearing as a continuation of the jigger's rim. When pouring to a line on a graduated measure the meniscus should be a continuation of that line. Misjudging the effect of the meniscus, particularly exaggerated when using a round measure, could result in a 10-15% over pour.
Tall skinny measures and jiggers are more accurate than the short squat measures as differences in measure are more exaggerated. Graduated measures, such as the Oxo measure in the video above or for extreme accuracy a tall laboratory graduated cylinder, best allow precise measurement of fractions of an ounce or shot.
The most important thing when measuring is to be consistent in the measure used and technique so the proportions of each ingredient are correct to each other.
The easiest way to follow recipes on this website is to follow the default which displays our recipes in shots, use a measure graduated in ounces and marked with quarter and half ounces. When doing this a ⅛ ounce is difficult to judge so I count a slightly under-filled bar spoon as ⅛ of an ounce.
Fellow Europeans who find 'shots' and fluid ounces decidedly imperial should work to the following rough conversion table (1 US fluid ounce is actually 29.5735296ml but the below rule-of-thumbs are much simpler to follow):
2 shots (2 oz) = 60ml
1¾ shots (1¾ oz) = 52.5ml
1 2/3 shots (1 2/3 oz) = 50ml
1½ shot (1½ oz) = 45ml
1⅓ shot (1⅓ oz) = 40ml
1¼ shot (1¼ oz) = 37.5ml
1 shot (1 oz) = 30ml (standard measure in US/Can/Aust/NZ/Asia)
5/6 shot (5/6 oz) = 25ml (standard UK measure)
3/4 shot (3/4 oz) = 22.5ml
2/3 shot (2/3 oz) = 20ml (standard measure in Europe)
1/2 shot (1/2 oz) = 15ml
⅓ shot (1/3 oz) = 10ml
¼ shot (¼ oz) = 7.5ml
1/6 shot (1/6 oz) = 5ml (approx. one barspoon)
⅛ shot (⅛ oz) = 3.75ml (slightly under-filled barspoon)
Some bartenders attempt to measure shots by counting time and estimating the amount of liquid flowing through a bottle's pour spout. This is known as 'free-pouring' and in unskilled hands can be terribly inaccurate. We strongly recommend the use of a physical measure and a great deal of care.