Tuesday Tools & Tricks #10: Why Size Really Matters!

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Well hello and happy Tuesday, readers!

For this week’s tools & tricks, we need to have a big discussion about size.

Drink size, that is.

As we have mentioned since the beginning of this blog, when we make cocktails we do our best to conform to the pre-prohibition standards for recipes, balance of ingredients, and measurement sizing.

Here is where things get tricky with that: drink size. Prior to prohibition, the sizes of cocktails made and consumed in the US and around the globe were rather dramatically different than they are now.

The average sizes for the different varieties of cocktails were as follows:

A traditional sling or cocktail (like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned): 4 oz


A traditional punch (like a margarita, or any drink that has a normal amount of citrus/fruit juice added, without any extra thrown in there), a posset (like a White Russian): 5 1/2 -6 oz

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A modified punch (like a San Francisco Pisco Punch, which has additional pineapple juice on top of the traditional punch proportions), a grog (like a Gin&Tonic), or a succulent (like a Screwdriver): 7-8 oz

Pisco Punch

Yep, you read that correctly. The largest drink out there was only about 8 oz, meaning 1 cup. And that includes ice. Sounds pretty small by today’s standards, doesn’t it?

Well, that is not really because true drink sizes have gotten bigger as time has gone on (never forget that prior to prohibition the standard shot size was 2 oz, and now a shot is only 1 1/2), but actually because glass sizes have gotten bigger.

jiggers and spoons

It is nearly impossible today to find glassware that are appropriately sized for traditional cocktails. Everything has been made bigger, but not for the sake of the drinks. Mostly, the glass sizes changed so that manufacturers could charge more for stemware.

That’s right, everyone. When you go to a restaurant or bar and get served a huge drink, chances are you are not getting a trough filled with alcohol, but rather a drink with added juice or syrup, one that has been over shaken or stirred to water it down, or one that has a ton of ice added to make it look far bigger than it really is. Sorry, but it turns out that we are all just getting screwed.

A bit of a downer, we know. But use this as an opportunity to choose wisely the next time you are out at a fancier restaurant or bar where cocktails are expensive — don’t let them trick you into buying drinks that are mostly water. We are all better than that.




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