How To Use A Cocktail Jigger Like A Professional

If you've ever ordered a cocktail at a bar, especially one specializing in high-end drinks, you have probably seen your bartender use various tools to craft your libation. They likely include a shaker for mixing your drink with ice, a glass beaker in which your drinks are stirred with a long spoon, a strainer to keep ice away from your martini, and an oddly shaped double-sided tool that looks like two metal shot glasses welded together.

Commonly called the jigger, the tool is designed to quickly measure the many ingredients that make up a cocktail. The most common capacity of the larger side of the jigger is one and a half ounces, but some are less capacious at one and a quarter ounces. The small side is designed to hold half that amount, about three-quarters of an ounce. To use it to measure your liquor, hold the "neck" of the jigger with your index and middle finger, fill the jigger to the brim with the libation of your choice, and pour it into whichever container you plan to mix your drinks in.

Why use a jigger?

Jiggers are used by bartenders because they need more precise measurements of liquor than your average home mixologist. As hospitality professionals, bartenders strive to deliver a consistent product to everyone. So instead of approximating the amount of liquor in each serving, a jigger ensures that the right amount is poured every time.

Aside from ensuring equal measurement, jiggers are also helpful for portion control. Liquors are expensive, and if too much is poured into each serving, the cost can add up rather quickly. With a jigger, you can control the exact amount you use with each drink, which makes sure there is as much liquor as one drink needs and nothing more.

For example, let's make a Vesper cocktail with a jigger. The recipe calls for three ounces of gin, so fill the larger end of the jigger twice with gin and pour it into a shaker. Add one ounce of vodka (two-thirds of a jigger in the larger end) of vodka and a half ounce of Lillet Blanc (two-thirds of the smaller end of the jigger). Fill with ice, shake vigorously, and pour into a martini glass through a strainer.

Other useful bar tools

Aside from the jigger, you can use other tools to create a set suitable for any cocktail enthusiast at home. A metal shaker is a basic tool that allows you to shake drinks with ice to mix and chill the cocktail. They often have a removable top with holes that allow pouring the result directly into a glass. When James Bond asks for a martini shaken and not stirred, that is the tool to use for the task.

A beaker is a glass with a pointed tip on its lip to facilitate smooth pouring. Combined with a long cocktail spoon (a spoon with a long handle and a small bowl), they are used to stir mixtures to combine. For example, most Manhattan cocktails are created by stirring bourbon (or rye) whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters with large pieces of ice to chill. Then a cocktail strainer (a flat piece of metal with holes) is placed on top of the beaker, and the mixture is strained into a cocktail glass. By stirring instead of shaking, the ice chills the drink without excessive melting, retaining the strength of the liquors.

Once you have a full set of bar tools, it is time to put them to good use. Try this list of classic cocktails for your next dinner party or cocktail hour at home. For those looking for something different, try the Vieux Carre, a classic cocktail with its roots in 1930s New Orleans.