When making a cocktail, even the best of us have been tempted to skip measuring and pour spirits into the cocktail mixer freehand.
And while spending the time to measure ingredients accurately at times may be annoying, the guesswork can lead to using the wrong ratio of cocktail ingredients, causing a jarring, off-balance drink.
Bartenders and mixologists in the know will tell you that you can’t just free-pour spirits when creating a boozy drink. Using a jigger ensures you dole out the exact amount of spirits, syrups, and juices, resulting in perfectly proportionate cocktails with well-balanced flavors and the desired alcohol strength.
In a professional setting, jiggers even help maintain inventory management as overpouring is surprisingly common but a costly expense for business operations.
Jiggers are one of the most essential tools for bartenders and mixologists but all of the different styles can lead to confusion amongst both new and experienced bartenders.
Here’s the ultimate guide to the different styles of jiggers as well as their standard pours.
What is a Jigger?
Almost as old as cocktails, jiggers have been used by bartenders for centuries. However, they’ve had a huge comeback and surge in popularity in recent years due to the interest in recreating early craft cocktail recipes.
A jigger is a small bar tool for portioning spirits and other alcoholic drinks accurately. Knowing the standard pours of a jigger allows you to dole out the exact amount of spirits to create a perfectly proportionate cocktail.
From a sophisticated Old Fashioned to the famous Negroni, the jigger is the mark of precision and your fastest route to creating harmonious, crowd-pleasing cocktails every single round.
Standard Pours of a Jigger
The standard pours of a jigger feature two different measurements from two conjoining cups. One cup is larger, and the other smaller.
In the early 19th century, the jigger was approximately 2.5 ounces. However, the double-ended version we know today – consisting of two unequally sized cups – was patented in Chicago in 1893 by Cornelius Dungan.
Today, a standard jigger’s larger cup – the jigger shot – holds a volume of 1.5 ounces (45ml), and the smaller cup – the pony shot – holds .75 ounces (22.5ml).
While there are different combinations of jigger sizes, 99% of the time, your jigger will have a 2:1 ratio.
The Jigger Shot (Large Side)
The jigger shot is the larger and most used side. It is used to pour the base spirits or primary cocktail ingredients in cocktail recipes. The jigger shot typically holds 1.5 ounces (45ml) of fluid but can hold 1 ounce (30ml) or 2 ounces (60ml), respectively, for smaller and larger style jiggers.
Pony Shot (Small Side)
The second cup of the jigger is smaller than the first side and commonly holds .75 ounces (22.5ml). It is used to pour secondary ingredients into a cocktail, including syrups, juices, liqueurs, and other modifiers. The .75-ounce shot is ideal for “equal part” pours in cocktail recipes.
The pony shot side is also available in 0.5 ounces (15ml) or 1 ounce (30ml).
Different Types of Jiggers
Jiggers are available in various shapes and sizes, from single, one-sided jiggers, to double, two-sided jiggers shaped like an hourglass. Most of them are stainless steel, with uneven bowls at each end. The bowls typically have a capacity that matches most standard drink recipes, ranging between 0.5 and 2.5 ounces.
However, other styles, like the stepped jigger or angled jigger, are one-sided and have markings to indicate the measurements.
The versatility of jiggers’ measurements ensures a suitable option for everyone, from home bartenders to professional mixologists.
Classic Jigger: A double jigger has two wide, V-shaped cups with different capacities. The classic design never seems to go out of style.
Japanese-style Jigger: The Japanese-style jigger is a double jigger that features a slim and sleek design to help make measurements more precise The refined, narrow shape also makes pouring spirits into a shaker or cocktail glass easier without spillage. Most bartenders use the Japanese-style jigger because of its practical 2-ounce – 1-ounce cup combination.
Bell Jigger: The bell jigger is another double-sided jigger. However, it features a more ergonomic style with retro curves and a slim mid-section. It is easy to hold and pour spirits.
Other Jigger Styles
While double-sided jiggers are probably the most popular in a bar setting due to their speed, many people appreciate the cleanliness and precision of single-sided jiggers.
Stepped Jigger: A stepped or multi-level jigger resembles a small measuring cup. It is one-sided, with measurements marked on the inside or outside of the cup.
Angled Jigger: A great option for home bartenders, the angled jigger allows for very precise measurements all without creating a mess. Angled jiggers also allow you to build cocktails right into the jigger. While some bartenders might scoff at this, we must admit it is an easy option.
Battle Tested Things to Note About Jiggers
After bartending for years, you begin to gather information either from first-hand experience or through insights from others.These tips and tricks can be very useful and when it comes to jiggers there are plenty of them.
While every bartender has his or her own preferences when using jiggers, these are a few things that you should be aware of when choosing the best one for you.
Check the accuracy of your markings: We have heard time and time again from bartenders who order jiggers online that the markings don’t match up to the correct liquid amount. That’s why, we always suggest bartenders measure the accuracy of their jiggers as soon as the receive them.
¼ oz markings are mandatory, ⅓ oz markings are nice to have: Not all jiggers on the market have markings showing you stepped measures. We highly suggest buying jiggers that have stepped markings as it can come in handy in a pinch.
Measure correctly: You need to fill jiggers up to the meniscus to ensure you get the correct measurements. If you aren’t careful, you might tip the tool too early and underpour your drink. Holding the jigger at eye level allows you to see the meniscus easily.
Hold the jigger properly: While first-timers may think holding a jigger between their index finger and thumb is easiest, it is awkward and inefficient when tipping the cup. Instead, keep it between your index finger and middle finger to measure and pour with a flip of the hand.
Measure the ingredients in the correct order: When using the same jigger for all your ingredients, ensure you measure the ingredients from thinnest to thickest – liquors, juice, light syrups, puree, honey, and then heavy syrup – to prevent incorrect measurements if the thicker liquids are left on the jigger.
Consistency is key to crafting great drinks. The jigger is a reliable and valuable bar tool that ensures accurate measurements in cocktails. Various styles and sizes are available; choose one that best suits your preferences.