As a great writer once poetically asked, “To jigger or not to jigger, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the hand to pour the shots of outrageous quantity, or to take measurement against a sea of liquor, and, by opposing, end it?”
We’re of course talking about the age-old bartending question: free pour drinks or use a jigger?
A jigger is the little hourglass-shaped stainless steel measurement tool that helps pour alcohol accurately. The benefits of using a jigger are hitting standard liquor pours consistently, keeping pour costs down, an getting a hold of your liquor inventory control with a variance formula.
The same advantage using a standardized recipe gives a kitchen. But the benefit of not using a jigger, or free pouring, is speed. And speed means money in the biz. A lot of people also think it looks a lot cooler.
This article is dedicated to helping you free pour based on the free pouring technique of counts, a technique taught in bartending school. At the end, we'll go over the four main types of liquor pourers and which is best for beginners.
Master this technique, and you’ll increase the amount of drinks you can make and the amount of money you take home. You'll be very happy you have a bartending license when you see the money flow in.
Pour Counts: How to Free Pour
How Do You Count When Pouring Alcohol?
The generally accepted free pouring technique and bartending counting method is to use a 4 count and have each number equal half an ounce poured.
But counting to four doesn’t make it the right amount. Counting to four at the right speed is what you’re after. And the key to doing that is practice. Grab a bottle (the size of a fifth of alcohol), fill it with water, add a pour spout, and get your 1-2-3-4 cadence down to equal .5 ounces per count. Just make sure to practice on well liquor, not top shelf.
A great way to practice is using wine glasses with pour lines. Pick a few up and you'll know exactly what ounces you're hitting during your counting. You can't make it as a bartender if you only know how to pour beer.
How Many Counts Is a 1 Oz Pour?
A 1-ounce pour is 2 counts using a pour spout. A good way to get there is using “one one-thousand” as a counting device. So you’ll free pour count “one one-thousand, two one-thousand,” and stop.
How Long of a Pour is an Ounce?
Given the above, an ounce pour is 2 counts. That’s roughly one second of pouring.
How Many Counts Is a 1.5 Oz Pour?
Using the four-count method, a 1.5-ounce pour is 3 counts using a pour spout. That means you’ll start pouring and say “one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand” and stop.
How Many Counts Is a 2 Oz Pour?
A 2-ounce pour is 4 counts using a pour spout. So you’ll count “one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, four one-thousand” and stop.
How Many Ounces Is a 4 count pour?
A 2-ounce pour is typically 4 counts. But only if you’re free pouring using a drink spout and the free pouring technique of the 4-count.
How Many Counts Are in a Double Shot?
A double shot is 3 ounces of liquor, which is 6 counts using a free pour spout.
What's a Long Pour?
A long pour refers to a bartender free pour where they lift the bottle up and away from the glass and let the liquor fall farther. It doesn’t have any impact on the volume of the pour, just the aesthetics of the pouring process.
Why do it, then? Some bartenders integrate it into their style. It can also be a useful trick to use to appear like someone is getting a generous pour when, in fact, they’re just getting the same amount from farther away. You might have seen this technique in a sommelier documentary. Do these properly and your customers may feel that you've poured a whole case of wine when you only went through two bottles.
Types of Free Pour Spouts
Why use free pour spouts? The length of the spout cuts down on spillage and allows for high-flow-rate pouring. But different pourers have different flow rates, pour accuracy, and susceptibility to contaminants. Even with a pour spout in, liquor can go bad so keep an eye on your bottles. You also don't want to find out the hard way can wine go bad.
Standard Free Pour Spout
This is the standard-issue, most-common free pour spout on the market. It’s got a black rubber stopper on the bottom, and a slight curve in the spout to reduce spillage. This pourer has a high flow rate, and the end of the spout is left open and can collect dust or other contaminants. This is a pourer for advanced free pourers that you'll find cruising through every bottle in a full bar liquor list.
Tapered Free Pour Spout
The tapered pourer is a lot like the standard pourer, but the end of the spout tapers to a smaller opening. That turns the high flow rate to a medium flow rate. Like the standard spout, the tapered spout doesn’t close and can collect dirt and bacteria. This is the best pourer for beginning free pourers.
Screened Free Pour Spout
No contaminants allowed! The screened pourer has a screen on the end to ward off dirt and grime, but the price is steep. It pours at a much lower rate than standard or tapered free pour spouts. The screen can also impede the flow of thicker, more viscous liqueurs.
Flap Free Pour Spout
Combining the best of both worlds, the flap spout pours at a high flow rate like the standard, but defends against dust and dirt like the screened. How? It has a flap positioned over the end of the spout when not pouring, and off the end of the spout when pouring. It can still collect residue from thicker liqueurs, though, so it needs to be cleaned frequently.
Wine Pour Spout
And we mustn't forget about wine pourers. While basic wine pourers are much like standard free pour spots, they're often far more ornamental and sometimes work double-duty beyond just helping you hit the standard wine pour. Many of them also act as stoppers, aerators, and conversation pieces.
Free Pour Count Your Blessings
Free pouring is a gift! It’s one of the most enjoyable bartending basics, not unlike this lists of the most popular cocktail recipes or classic cocktails every bartender should know. First, it’s fun. Second, it looks really cool. And third, with the right pour spout and a solid 4-count cadence, you’ll be rid of jiggers forever.
Master it and your variance won’t take a hit free pouring while your speed (and dare we say, your flair?) increases. Which means more upselling drinks, and more tips. You'll also want to know how many ounces in a pint.