So you’ve decided you want to make a few cocktails at home and you are wondering what you need to get started. Or maybe you have some booze and a shaker, but you are thinking you want to get a little more serious about making cocktails than just throwing a few things in the shaker by eyeballing. What is the simplest most important thing you can do to get started/improve your mixology skills?
Start measuring your ingredients!
Most of us start out looking at recipes for the ingredients, but forget to focus on the measurements, and instead give it a rough guess as to how much to pour. Remember, the recipe is there for a reason!
We’ve all been there at some point. You keep a bottle of whiskey and vermouth at the house to throw together a few Manhattans (or whatever it is you like). You notice sometimes they taste really good, other times mediocre and the majority of the time somewhere in between. Imagine if you could be sure that you made your favorite drink right every time? Well that’s what measuring does for you! No more suffering through that nasty one, the one you’ve tried to doctor up without success or dreaming that you could make it just like you did “that one time.”
QUIT eyeballing and start measuring. It is the single most important thing you can do to ensure consistency in your mixes.
so what do you need to get started with measuring your drinks? Everyone has at some point seen those double sided measuring cups called jiggers that some bartenders use. Well now it’s your turn, go out and buy one. A good jigger is typically $5-$10 at most places and will make a huge difference in your drinks. “Fine ok, I’ll go get one, just stop pestering me!”
You start to look into it, only to find that there are many sizes of jiggers. The most common types are the 1.5oz/.75oz and 1oz/0.5oz jiggers. Some places sell 2oz/1oz jiggers. There are also beakers, measuring cups, etc. Do you need them all? Probably not. You could pick a few so that you have the different sizes you need; however, when you make a drink you may have to use multiple jiggers.
“But the recipe I’m looking at has 1/4 oz and 1/3 oz measurements in it as well. You said not to eyeball, but how am I supposed to get those amounts accurate?”
The Straight Up is not paid for this endorsement. If only I were so powerful.
The best part, this jigger is widely available (Amazon, Target or most cooking stores) and reasonably priced at around $9.
Enter my favorite jigger: The OXO Steel Double Jigger. So what is so special about this jigger? Besides looking good, being durable and having a nice non slip grip in the middle? Well it can be used for literally every measurement you need, all with one jigger. The larger cup is 1.5oz, but has graded measurements inside for .75oz and 1/3oz. The smaller cup is 1 oz, with graded measurements for 0.5oz and 0.25oz. The OXO really is the only jigger you need.
The OXO is by far my most used and highest recommended jigger. In fact, since I bought one, I almost never use the others. That being said, if you don’t like it, can’t find it, or would rather try something else, any jigger will do, just make sure you can measure the appropriate amounts.
I also have a nice 3 oz beaker that is perfect for making a Manhattan or other straight forward drink that involves 3oz of contents. If I am making one of these, I will often just fill the beaker with 2oz rye and 1oz vermouth and pour once. It’s great for simplicity. My final jigger is a Japanese style 2oz/1oz jigger that can come in handy if you are in need of a quick 2oz pour (of course you could just double pour into the 1oz side of the OXO). Again for most, the OXO will be all you would ever need.
How to measure ingredients:
Remember: you are measuring for a reason.
- Make sure you stay accurate.
- Try not to over pour by pouring too fast.
- Sloppy measuring is worse than not measuring at all.
- Also do not hold the jigger over your mixing glass as you pour. If you do this and over pour, it will fall into your glass; tidy? yes, accurate? no.
- I typically hold the jigger between my fingers, pour to the appropriate level, then dump the contents into the glass.
- Alternatively, you could leave the jigger on the counter and pour into it, but this may increase your chances of making a mess due to less control over the bottle as you pour this low.
- Pouring on the counter does come in handy if using a graded jigger like the OXO and you want to pour two ingredients into the jigger at once.
- Lets say you need .75oz for two ingredients. I pour the first ingredient to the .75oz line then add the second to fill the 1.5oz side of the jigger, then pour.
So you found some recipes that say to use 1 Jigger or 1 pony or a splash. Or maybe your recipe uses milliliters. How does that translate into your shiny new jigger? See below for some conversions of common measurements.
- 2 oz = 59 ml = Nip
- 1.5 oz = ~45 ml = Jigger
- 1 oz = ~30 ml = Pony
- .75 oz = ~22.5 ml
- .5 oz = ~15 ml
- 3/8 oz = ~11 ml = Tablespoon
- 1/3 oz = ~10 ml
- .25 oz = ~7.5 ml
- 1/8 oz = 3.7 ml = Teaspoon = Splash