Bar Measurements

Drink recipes require measuring the ingredients, just as cooking something does. Some bar measurements are the same as those used in the kitchen but others are unique to the bar.

The most common bar measurement is the jigger, or shot. A jigger measures 1.5 fluid ounces and forms the basis for almost all mixed drinks.

Smaller than a jigger is the pony, at just one fluid ounce. Some jiggers come with a container at each end; the larger one is a jigger, the smaller a pony.

Some drinks are best made individually but others can be made in quantity quite easily. These beverages rely on a formula rather than a recipe, calling for parts instead of jiggers.

For example, the ever-popular Sex on the Beach is made, individually, from one jigger vodka, one jigger peach schnapps, three jiggers cranberry juice, and three jiggers pineapple juice. To serve a crowd, on the beach, by the pool, wherever, bump those jiggers up to a larger measurement, say a cup or more. Your recipe then becomes one part vodka, one part peach schnapps, three parts cranberry juice, and three parts pineapple juice. The proportion of the ingredients (the formula) doesn’t change even though the size of the measurements (the parts) does.

Don’t make frozen beverages or those with carbonated ingredients in large quantities, by the part. The frozen drinks thaw and become too watery and the carbonated beverages lose their fizz the longer they set.

A dash is about the smallest measure you’ll ever want to use. It’s usually reserved for potent flavoring agents, such as Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, bitters, and the like, instead of a main ingredient.

A splash is similar to a dash, only bigger, perhaps a half a teaspoon.

When calculating servings, one jigger is one serving of a liquor or liqueur. One serving of beer is a 12-ounce can, bottle, or pour from a keg. One serving of wine is five ounces.

Keg beer is often sold by the pint, too, which is actually 16 ounces (2 cups) instead of 12.

A fifth of liquor is a bar measurement unique to the United States. It represents one-fifth of one gallon of liquor. Other countries, following the metric system, bottle their liquors in liters, which is a bit larger than a fifth. One gallon converts to 3.75 liters.

A bottle of wine contains about 24 ounces, or almost five 5-ounce servings. Splits have become popular in recent years, too. A split of wine or champagne measures 6.5 ounces, or slightly more than one serving per split.

One bottle of liquor makes about 20 to 25 drinks, depending on if it’s a fifth or a liter and how accurate the bar measurements are. Larger bottles, called half-gallons, may be more appropriate for larger parties and usually cost a little less per serving than the smaller bottles. The US liquor industry streamlined measurements a bit in 1980; today’s half-gallon is actually 1.75 liters.

One commonly used rule of thumb is to plan on serving one drink per person for every hour a party lasts. This rule changes, of course, according to the guests. You’ll probably need more servings per person per hour during a Super Bowl party than you’d serve at a baby shower or grandma’s 90th birthday party.

Expect to use about a pound of ice per person for an indoor party. For an outdoor party, have 1.5 pounds of ice handy.