The Basics: Measurement

jiggers and spoons

Hi Everyone!

Here at The Woman At The Bar there is one thing we love: precision! There is also one thing that we hate: prohibition! Funnily enough, these two extremes come together in a very important way in our first Basics lesson: MEASUREMENT!

When it comes to drink-making, measurement is key. You can throw almost anything into a glass and make an Adult Beverage out of it, but if you really want to make friends and influence people in the world of mixology, it is all about precision, precision, precision.

See, a drink needs a specific balance when it comes to ingredients in order to really take it over the top. You wouldn’t want a martini that has 4x as much vermouth as gin, would you? (You wouldn’t, trust me.) You definitely wouldn’t want a margarita that had 4 ounces of lime juice and only 1/2 an ounce of tequila, right? (I sincerely doubt you would be reading this if you did.) All of this is to say, measuring and balancing your ingredients is important.

So how do we do that, you might ask? With jiggers and measuring spoons, of course! You see that picture at the top of this post? Those are the most important things you can have in your personal bar: a good set of jiggers, and a good set of measuring spoons.

You might be saying to yourself, “hey Kelly? I have a jigger already! Can we high five?” Oh really? Do you know what the split is? Do you know how many ounces the large and small halves hold? What are you going to do when you need to measure out something smaller than that, wing it? (You better not, we JUST talked about that…don’t you test me.)

I bet some of the rest of you are standing in the corner thinking, “well, I just use a shot glass to measure…but I have a feeling that is not something Kelly wants to hear.” You are correct! That is NOT something I want to hear, but unfortunately I know it is often the truth. There are oh so many problems with using a standard shot glass to measure out the liquor you use in your mixed drinks, but do you want to know what the worst one is? Prohibition.


Prohibition, you say? “But Kelly, prohibition ended…like…back before there was television. It doesn’t matter now!” Really, are you still doubting me? We have a long way to go, friends. You see, we here at The Woman At The Bar follow the pre-prohibition rules when it comes to measurement.

Huh? What?

If you would all kindly sit down, allow me to tell you a little story about our wonderful ‘Murica prior to the good ol’ 18th Amendment. Prior to the beginning of prohibition, the art of mixology in America was just that: an art. A singularly American invention, the art of making mixed drinks was in its golden age from about 1890 up until the ban began in 1920. One of the most important elements to drink-making that existed prior to prohibition was this: the standard amount (or “shot”) of alcohol used in drinks was 2 ounces. 

When prohibition started and those hard-working, god-fearing Americans were forced to drink in secret, and most often crappy swill and not The Good Stuff, mixology faded from our national consciousness. And even after the ban ended in 1933, things were never really the same. The most important difference was the shift from the pre-prohibition use of 2 ounces of liquor in a shot, to the 1.5 ounces we are now familiar with. 

And that, my friends, is why it is NOT OKAY to use a shot glass to measure the liquor you use in your drinks. Because you are not getting the right amount of liquor! And it is why it is essential that you know what the split is in the jiggers that you own. I would venture to guess that if you own a jigger, it is likely split 1.5 ounces on the top, and either .75 or .5 ounces on the bottom (but it is probably not marked, so you really don’t know how much you are getting) . This is not good. Throw that jigger away. Burn it. Curse it’s name. It is not helping you at all. Go over to Amazon right now and buy new ones. You need a set so you can easily measure out the amounts of liquor, fruit juice, sweetener, and more that goes into a great drink. Trust me, it’s worth it.

The other important thing to have on hand is a good set of measuring spoons. Luckily most people have these already if you do any cooking or baking. Ideally, you want a set that goes from 1/8th a teaspoon (what we in the mixology game would call a “scruplespoon”) up to 1 tablespoon (which is equal to 1/2 an ounce).

So that’s that, my dears! The skinny on measurement. You have now officially graduated your first Basics lesson, and are one step closer to the joy that is a fabulous home bar!

Go forth, friends!


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