How to make cocktails

Measuring cocktail ingredients

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 express the measures of each ingredient in a cocktail in ounces, millilitres, centilitres and shots - simply select your preferred measure below each recipe.

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 using a jigger or 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 for each measurement so that each ingredient is the correct ratio to the others.

When using a jigger, be aware 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 an 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.

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 following rough conversion table (1 US fluid ounce is actually 29.5735296ml) shows the common measures used in cocktails - measure in green being the most used to those in red being least called for in recipes.

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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 useless much practised and perfected is very inaccurate. We strongly recommend the use of a physical measure and a great deal of care.

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