How to measure cocktail ingredients
Words by Simon Difford
Achieving balance between each ingredient is critical to the deliciousness of a finished cocktail. To achieve the perfect balance you need a good recipe and to accurately follow that recipe you need a good measure. Accurate measurement of ingredients is a crucial element in consistently making good cocktails.
The most accurate way of measuring liquids is by weight rather than volume but weighing each ingredient is impractical for cocktail making so cocktail recipes tend to be expressed in fluid ounces or millilitres/centilitres (recipes on this website are all in oz, ml, and cl - simply select your preference below each recipe). Accurate measurement of volume is best achieved by using a specially designed measure called a jigger.
Many cocktail jiggers are double-sided so that turning such measures over reveals a second size of measuring cylinder or cone. The disadvantage of this design is that after one side has been used and then upended it faces down so is likely to drip. Not such a problem with spirits but this can quickly lead to a sticky mess with drips of sugary liqueurs or syrups.
Jiggers with graduated measures allow different volumes to be accurately measured using the same device without the need to upend. That's why we designed our Easy Jigger, which, as the name suggests, is easy to use, measures in millilitres and ounces, and we believe is the most accurate graduated bar jigger available.
Tall skinny measures and jiggers are more accurate than the short squat measures as differences in measures are more exaggerated. Hence, the cone shape of our Easy Jigger which elongates small measures to such an extent that its graduations start at 1.25 ml / 1/24th oz.
When using a jigger, be aware of the dome-shaped meniscus created by surface tension. To measure a full measure many 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 could result in an over pour.
Whatever jigger or measuring vessel you use the objective is to end up with the ratio of each ingredient to the other as stipulated in the recipe, so be consistent in your choice of measure and how you use that measure to ensure each ingredient is in proportion to the other.
Conversion ml to oz & oz to ml
Thanks to the influence of the American bar, US fluid ounces still affect the units of volume used in cocktail recipes, even when those recipes are created and written in millilitres. One US fluid ounce roughly converts to 30ml (it's actually 29.5735296ml) so it is common for recipes to be expressed in units of 1oz or 30ml, or fractions of 1oz or 30ml. The standard size of the bowl on a bartender's long-handled spoon is roughly 5ml (1/6th oz), so this has also led to recipe graduations being in 5ml increments.
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 and counting I have 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 3.2 to 6 dashes (with Japanese bitters bottle dashers tending towards the 60 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 and 4 dashes = 1.25ml.
Some bartenders measure shots by counting time while the liquid pours to estimating the amount of liquid flowing through a bottle's pour spout. This is known as "free-pouring" and unless much practised and perfected, this is very inaccurate. We strongly recommend the use of a jigger and a great deal of care.