A jigger is a bartending measurement used to pour accurate and consistent drinks. But there has been some confusion over exactly how much liquid a jigger contains. The most common debate is whether a jigger equals 1 ounce or 1.5 ounces. The answer depends on the type and size of jigger being used. Understanding the different jigger sizes and conversions is important for both professional and home bartenders. This article will examine the history of the jigger, the standard jigger sizes, how to properly use a jigger, and conversions to other measurements.
What is a Jigger?
A jigger is a small hourglass-shaped bar tool used to measure liquor pours. It has two opposing cones or cylinders, with one typically being smaller than the other. Jiggers help bartenders stay consistent with their pours by allowing them to precisely measure out ingredients. The word “jigger” may come from the Scottish word “chigger” meaning a liquid measure. Or it may be related to the French word “gigot” meaning leg. This could refer to the resemblance of a jigger’s two cups to a pair of legs. Jiggers started becoming popular tools in the late 1800s during the cocktail movement in America. Before jiggers, bartenders would free-pour liquors using subjective counts. Jiggers allowed them to achieve more accurate, standardized pours. This helped popularize mixed drinks by ensuring each cocktail had the correct proportions. Today, jiggers are indispensable tools both for professional bartenders and home mixologists alike. They allow for consistency, efficiency, cost control and proper balance in cocktail recipes.
Common Jigger Sizes
Jiggers come in a variety of sizes, but there are several standard volumes that are most common:
- 1 ounce / 1⁄2 ounce
- 1 ounce / 1 ounce
- 1.5 ounces / 1 ounce
- 2 ounces / 1 ounce
The two cone sizes allow the bartender to measure out two different amounts, usually a larger pour and smaller pour, in one tool. The most popular jigger sizes used in the United States are 1 ounce and 1.5 ounces. The single 1 ounce cone is used for pouring liquors and ingredients that only require 1 ounce, like bitters. The larger 1.5 ounce cone is used for the main alcohol pours in cocktails.
Understanding jigger conversions is helpful for following recipes and making substitutions:
- 1.5 ounce jigger = 3 tablespoons = 1.5 fluid ounces
- 1 ounce jigger = 2 tablespoons = 1 fluid ounce
- 1 teaspoon = 1/6 ounce
- 1.5 ounces = 3 tablespoons
- 1 cup = 16 ounces = 236 milliliters
So a standard 1.5 ounce jigger convert to 3 tablespoons, which is helpful to know when following a recipe that uses tablespoons.
Is a Jigger 1 Ounce or 1.5 Ounces?
This is the key question behind the ongoing jigger debate. With multiple sizes on the market, both answers can actually be correct. But there are some general guidelines:
- A jigger is most commonly accepted as being 1.5 ounces.
- A standard jigger used at most bars and by professional bartenders is 1.5 ounces.
- In recipes, a “jigger” typically means 1.5 ounces of alcohol.
- A smaller 1 ounce jigger is usually specified as a “pony jigger” or “shot glass jigger.”
- So when a recipe just says “jigger” without any other details, it’s usually referring to a 1.5 ounce jigger.
Theorigins of the standard 1.5 ounce jigger size can be traced back to the jiggers used during Prohibition in the 1920s to early 1930s in America. The average cocktail ratio was 3:1, meaning 3 parts liquor to 1 part mixer. A 1.5 ounce jigger allowed bartenders to quickly pour the right liquor portion to mix with a 0.5 ounce mixer. This 3:1 ratio continues to be a common cocktail spec today. So the 1.5 ounce jigger remains the primary tool for bartenders. Any jigger that measures 1 ounce would be clarified as a “pony jigger.”
A pony jigger or shot glass jigger is the term for a 1 ounce jigger. Since 1 ounce is a more common shot size, these small jiggers are handy for measuring out pours for straight spirits or liqueurs. The “pony” designation refers to the smaller pour size, compared to the larger 1.5 ounce “standard” jigger. You’ll sometimes see pony jiggers also marked as 0.5 ounces / 1 ounce, to allow measuring half or full shot pours.
How to Use a Jigger Properly
Using a jigger correctly is important for accurate pours:
- Select the right size jigger for the recipe – 1 ounce or 1.5 ounces.
- When pouring, hold the jigger at eye level on top of the glass so you can see the liquid level.
- Slowly pour the liquor or ingredient into the smaller cone first. This cone is usually 1 ounce or 0.5 ounces.
- Then pour the liquor from the larger cone into the glass. The larger cone is typically 1.5 ounces.
- Aim to fill right to the very top rim of the jigger cone, no more, no less.
- Swirl the jigger slightly as you finish pouring to release any liquid sticking to the sides.
- Wipe and clean your jigger after each set of pours to maintain accuracy.
Filling to the precise top, rinsing between uses, and using a jigger designed for that recipe volume will ensure you get an exact pour every time.
Cocktail Recipe Using a Jigger
Here is an example cocktail recipe following standard jigger measurements:
- 2 ounces (1 jigger) bourbon
- 1 ounce (pony jigger) fresh lemon juice
- 0.5 ounce (dash) simple syrup
- Lemon slice garnish
- Cocktail cherry garnish
- Fill mixing glass with ice.
- Measure 2 ounces bourbon using the larger cone of jigger.
- Measure 1 ounce lemon juice using smaller jigger cone.
- Add 0.5 ounce simple syrup (approx. 1 teaspoon).
- Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds.
- Strain into chilled cocktail glass.
- Garnish with lemon slice and cherry.
The “jigger” in this recipe refers to the standard 1.5 ounce size, while the “pony jigger” equates to 1 ounce. Following these jigger measurements results in a properly balanced sour cocktail.
Jigger vs. Bar Spoon vs. Dash
In addition to jiggers, there are a couple other small bar tools used for measuring liquids and ingredients:
A bar spoon holds approximately 5 milliliters or 1 teaspoon. It is used for smaller amounts of ingredients like bitters, grenadine, or cream.
A dash is the smallest unit of measure, equivalent to around 2-3 drops. Dash bottles have a controlled hole for pouring consistent dashes.
So in a recipe, a “jigger” would refer to ounces, while a “bar spoon” or “dash” would cover small teaspoon or drop measurements.
Cocktail Jigger Guide
|1 teaspoon or 5 ml
|Dash from bottle
This guide summarizes the key jigger and cocktail measuring tools and their equivalent liquid amounts.
While there is some variability in jigger sizes, the majority of jiggers used in cocktail recipes contain 1.5 ounces in the larger cup. The standard jigger has become 1.5 ounces due to the popularity of the 3:1 ratio in mixed drinks. Pony jiggers at 1 ounce are specified when a smaller pour is required. Understanding how to properly use jiggers and the correct volumes for recipes is key to being a skilled bartender. Precise jigger technique ensures drinks have balanced flavors, proportions and consistent quality from the first to the last sip. So whether mixing drinks at home or behind the bar, a trusty jigger is a must-have tool.