I participated in the cocktail mixing category. During those times, we used the jigger: a double-headed stainless bar tool used to measure accurately the liquid poured out from the bottle to the glass.
Then there was Tom Cruise’s movie. In all of the bar scenes, I cannot recall ever seeing this bar tool used whenever he made a drink. And then there was a time that I had a short stint at TGIFriday’s. I wanted to learn how to flip a bottle like the bartenders did. That was the first time I was introduced to flair. At this bar, they don’t use the jigger but instead used “free pouring.”
Free-pouring is pouring the liquid from the bottle directly into a glass without the use of a jigger but by mental counting. If mastered, this is a very accurate and fast method. At the tip of their bottles were chrome plated spouts called pourspouts/speed pourers, specifically Spill Stop # 285-50.
And so, as I became a bartender myself, I was again oriented by my Bar Supervisor on how to use the jigger and how to pour properly. At that time, I would still practice free-pour knowing that it will be an advantage someday.
In some bar operations, the use of the jigger and the pour spout were combined. The bottles had pour spouts and all the bartender has to do is pour it to the jigger and transfer it to the glass.
Time has passed and I entered the academe. I did some readings, interviews, net surfing and observations. I found out that technically, “free-pouring” which TGI bartenders practice religiously is a lot faster if mastered and done correctly.
Although I get to see some bartenders from other bars attempt to do free-pour, they actually “over pour” in the process because they seem to have not been taught how to do a proper free-pour.
When I did this article, it was 2002 and there are still bars which use the jigger. With this observation, I began to wonder … which one is really better? The jigger or the pourspout? I asked even the bartenders abroad and they don’t use the jigger anymore because it just delays service.
Another thing they say is that it doesn’t look professional especially when you are facing your guests, they would think that you are limiting them to shots. But when looking at the point of view of the managers, they would say that the jigger makes them control there cost accurately because they know exactly how many shots were used from the bottle. Will it?
On the other hand, with free pouring, there is a bigger probability of over pouring and /or under pouring simply because it is just an estimate. Is it? Doesn’t the use of a jigger have its own probability of over and/or under-pouring especially when they bartender has shaky hands?
Having worked on ships, there would be managers who require to use the jigger and there would be some who would let us free-pour as long as we knew how to do it.
Probability of over pour and under pour can occur in both methods. Although if you “practice” probability of accuracy in both methods are great as well. With all being equal, who has the edge?
In terms of service, I think “free-pour” has an edge. One would be one to two steps ahead if he does free-pour.
Cost is not the issue. I think what we should really look at is the essence of the operation and the F&B industry which is SERVICE. Service which is fast, accurate and of the highest quality. Service that will allow the bartender make a lot of drinks in the shortest period of time. Regardless of what tool we use, this should always be the primary concern.
As a manager, between the two equipment, which one will make your guests come back? Which do you think will make your bartenders look professional?
It is your choice.