There is no video for this lesson. The actual lesson and video on how I pour (and you should also), is in the very next lesson. In this lesson, it’s all about the general idea behind how much you pour for each drink, the types of pourers, and some basic techniques.

Don’t stress out about this! Your first week on the job, your trainer will most likely supervise your pouring technique and get you up to speed in no time. You’ll be pouring exactly how the bar dictates – in your first hour of working!

Some General Tips and Techniques About Pouring Liquor

All bars pour differently! Some pour only 1 ounce for a Vodka Tonic. Some pour heavy at 2 ounces – although that’s a bit unusual. Most will pour 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 ounces for a regular drink.

Some will NOT pour more for “on-the-rocks” or “up” drinks – and some will. Some will charge more for “on-the-rocks” and some won’t.

To avoid confusion, I’ll stick with the “norm” as we proceed through this lesson.

A good, general starting point For Pouring Drinks is below

1 Ounce – Shooters. Or regular shots – but it depends on the bar. Many bars have shot glasses with that little white line at 1 1/4 ounce. Some 1 ounce. Some 1 1/2 ounce.

1 ½ Ounces – regular drinks. Screwdriver, Jack and Coke, Gin and Tonic, Margarita’s.

2 Ounces – On-the-Rocks, “Up,” “Neat.”

2 ½ Ounces – Martinis, Manhattans, Black Russians, Two-Liquors on the rocks or “Up.” Maybe “Specialty” drinks.

Some General Liquor Pouring Rules

You pour “Call” or “Top Shelf” liquors the same way. Just because the type/brand of liquor costs more, doesn’t mean you pour more!

If you’re pouring more liquor, for whatever reason, there is almost always a price bump.

Two-liquor drinks usually get a price bump. So do “on-the-rocks” and “up” drinks.

All bars are different, so it totally depends upon what the owner dictates. I have worked at many bars, and their pouring amounts are all over the place; however, when you know exactly how much the owner wants you to pour – it makes drink recipes that much easier to learn.

I have seen some bar managers insist that new bartenders use a jigger their first week or so. I never agreed with this, as regular customers will notice. And make no mistake – regular customers, and people in general, would prefer that bartenders free pour. The exception will be Craft Bars – or bars where the owner runs a ton of drink specials making exotic drinks.

Free pouring (without the use of a measuring device, i. e. “Jigger”) allows the bartender to be so much more efficient. I always told my bartenders that the goal was to be within 1/16 of a shot. It’s easier than you think, and this can be achieved either with or without a jigger.

A Few Liquor Pouring Pitfalls

  • Some liquors are thicker than others – they’ll pour slower
  • Pouring spouts come in many shapes and forms. Some pour fast – some slow
  • Liquor bottles are different sizes and shapes – they have a different “feel”
  • There is a split-second difference in pouring speed between a full liquor bottle and a bottle that is nearing empty.

The “Counting” Method For Pouring Liquor

I have always used this method: 1 count = ¼ ounce

4 counts is 1 ounce

6 counts is 1 ½ ounces

8 counts is 2 ounces

Simple. I know some bartenders who use one count for ½ ounce. One Mississippi, two, Mississippi….and on. That’s too long for me. In my liquor pouring video, I’ll demonstrate proper pouring techniques. Good stuff – and quite simple.

Jiggers: Liquor Measuring Devices

Jiggers come in all shapes and sizes. Some bars will require that you use one. No free pouring allowed! Craft Bars are known for using a jigger to measure everything.

How Do Bartenders Learn How To Pour Liquor?

The benefits of using a jigger are keeping liquor costs as low as possible and providing a consistent product to the customer. Many experienced bartenders will argue about this endlessly.

Personally, I have observed many bartenders, using a jigger, over-pour like crazy. And, I have seen experienced “Free-Pouring” bartenders that are so accurate it will amaze you.

How Do Bartenders Learn How To Pour Liquor?

Notice the two ends of the above jiggers. The have two different measuring sizes.

Bar owners balance speed versus accuracy. If the bar is extremely busy at times – does he want his bartenders measuring every shot? All bar owners are different, and your only concern here is to follow bar policy.

I’ve worked in bars that free pour, insist on using a jigger, utilize a liquor “gun,” and have measured liquor pourers. I’ll take free pouring over all other methods – it’s not even close.

True Story:
I have worked large parties at hotels where the banquet manager (or captain), comes by in the middle of very busy times and simply said, “It’s time to lose the shot glass, Mark!” No argument from me!

Most bars will have only one type of jigger.

Most customers will prefer free pouring.

Most bartenders will prefer free pouring.

Liquor/Speed Pourers (Spouts)

Liquor pourers come in all sizes, colors, and shapes.

Short Style Liquor Pouring Jigger
How Do Bartenders Learn How To Pour Liquor?
Free Flowing Liquor Pouring Spout
Liquor Pourer With Bug Screen

Some pour fast, some slow, some really fast. Long spouts. Short spouts.

The bar will usually have only one type of pourer; however, it’s not uncommon to have a different type of pourer for “thick” alcohols. Like Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream. Some bars won’t even use a liquor pourer for those alcohols/brands – they’ll keep them capped.

Liquor Pouring Techniques

When pouring, always flip the bottle almost completely upside down. Of course, on some drinks, if you’re measuring, you’ll back off on that a bit. Techniques vary, and we’ll get into this in the very next lesson.

Beware of the air hole on every pourer – don’t cover it! Experienced bartenders know how to use the air hole to adjust the pouring amount – but that’s for another discussion which we’ll get into in the next lesson (Pouring Liquor), and the “Bartender vs. Customer” lesson. Fun stuff.

I won’t go into any more detail here – watch the pouring video in the next lesson. And remember that your trainer will fill you in as to how the house pours.

If you’re following along in the Basic Bartending Course:

Next Lesson: Liquor Pouring Video

Previous Lesson: Shaking/Building/Stirring

Back to the Course Start Page: Basic Bartending Course