Excess or insufficient alcoholic ingredients can mess up the entire balance of a complex drink. Bearing in mind that the ratio of drink ingredients and accuracy are the most critical things in drink recipes, majority of bartenders would resort to using jiggers to accurately and precisely measure the various wet ingredients in a complex drink.
A jigger is thus a measuring device made of metal or glass that has two cones on each end. It is typically used by bartenders and mixologists to decant accurately 43ml (circa 1.4 ounces) of a beverage into a drink recipe. Note that the large cone usually holds around 1 1/2 ounces of wet ingredients, while it's smaller counterpart holds 1 or 3/4 ounce. Of equal importance to keep in mind too is that jiggers are available in other sizes as well, hence may not necessarily measure wet ingredients.
A conventional style of bar jigger is made of stainless steel, with the two cones on either side of the jigger featuring an hourglass shape. A typical large cone of a British Jigger measures circa 50ml while the small cone measures exactly 25ml.
Despite the fact that personal gradation and capacity of a jigger can vary, a jigger is typically the regular equipment in majority of bar sets. Some bar jiggers are manufactured larger than the normal size, in order to measure "double" alcohol amounts or to measure non-alcoholic blenders. Further, jigger measures can come equipped with metal rods attached between the standard two cones. This assists effortless decantation of the liquids into a martini shaker or blender.
While some jigger sets are manufactured with only the gradation marks engraved on the side instead of the normal measurements, it is upon the bartender or mixologist to tell apart the difference between the diverse sizes of cups present. It is very common to find bartenders or mixologists not using jiggers for measurement. For instance, a simple cocktail may require a jigger of water and scotch. If the right cup of jigger is not on hand, the normal 1/2 an ounce measurement will still be applicable.
Most mixologists rely on their technique, memory, and more importantly their hands on experience in decanting and mixing many drinks. A certified mixologist is allowed to work without the use of a jigger. However, bar owners would find a jigger useful, particularly if they do not trust employees to pour drinks freely.
Conversely, a jigger should be used in most cases, particularly where the skills and experience of the one mixing the drinks are questionable. This is because jiggers can help resolve disputes that may arise over the actual amount of each alcohol ingredient contained in a served drink.
That said, a jigger can be a source of pride for a skilled mixologist, to be capable of free-pouring drinks with accuracy, just like the jigger would. Be advised that a shot glass can be used in place of a jigger, but the ingredient ratio and accuracy may vary from those of a jigger, albeit slightly.
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