Home Bartending Jigger

How to Use a Jigger

This photo shows a bartender struggling with a steel jigger, because they cannot see through it like   a glass jigger, and they are stuck with whatever measuring lines are printed on it. (© dolgachov/123RF photo)

Once you memorize a clear glass jigger, you’ll never go back to steel.

To impress guests with delicious drinks, you need quality. The first step to quality is repeatability. That’s why we measure everything. This visual guide shows you how to wield an unmarked jigger like a true cocktail hero.

So far you’ve learned about the tools, equipment, glassware, base and modifier spirits, juices, mixers, ice and garnishes. Now it’s time to put it all together. This article introduces you to the jigger techniques that are used by professional bartenders.

Using the Jigger

The jigger allows precise measurement, so you can replicate a recipe as the author intended. After that, it allows you to experiment with known amounts of liquids, to suit your taste and that of your guests.

If you prefer a jigger with lines on it, there’s not much to remember. Just fill the jigger to the amount specified in the recipe. If you use speed spouts, or pour spouts, the liquor will be more manageable as it flows out of the bottle and into the jigger.

Keep in mind that a standard jigger, or unit of base liquor is different depending on where you are. The USA uses 1.5 ounces, Europe uses 30 ml, Canada uses either 30 ml or 1 ounce.

If you watch professionally trained bartenders work, you’ll notice that they hold the jigger very close, above and to the left side of the mixing glass. Their first motion fills the jigger to the correct level. The second brings the bottle to an upright position, as liquor is thrown from the jigger into the glass all at once. The jigger is held from the start to finish, while pouring all liquids for any particular drink.

Unmarked Jigger Equivalents

The unmarked jigger is more than just a shot glass. It features a gradually widening taper, which makes it easier to measure small amounts. But it also means having to memorize the conversion table below.

1/4 = 1/3
1/3 = 1/2
1/2 = 3/5
3/4 = 4/5
1 = bubbled on top
Photo shows the bartender how to use an unmarked jigger for the accurate measurements of liquid ingredients.

How to Measure with an Unmarked Jigger

For example, if the recipe calls for 1/3 of something, fill the jigger 1/2 full. If it calls for 1/4 fill it 1/3. If it calls for 1, pour the liquid into the jigger until it’s bubbled on top and about to overflow. This will take some getting used to, but once mastered, you’ll never resort back to using a jigger with lines on it.

If you need larger amounts of base spirits to make American sized cocktails, or to fill large glassware, use a bigger 1.5 or 2 ounce jigger instead. If it’s tapered inside like the one above, the table will remain fairly accurate, but double check the volume levels just to be sure.

Be sure to rinse the jigger in warm water after each cocktail. Have several on hand in case one breaks. Plus you can always use them for shots and shooters.


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