The name of the game with mixed drinks is practice makes perfect. A cocktail is an alcoholic work of art; without the right proportions, it just won't inspire you. And inspiration is a key ingredient in a good cocktail. Well, that, a good recipe, and the ability to pour shots consistently.
In order to achieve the former, however, you must perfect the latter two, and to do so you need to have a great recipe on hand and control the amount of liquor in each pour, every time.
The first part isn't so difficult. You can even have the more complicated recipes on hand so that you can glance at them to remind yourself what you need next.
The second part, however, can be a problem especially when you find yourself without a jigger at your disposal and you need to mix a drink that's more complicated than a vodka soda. Thankfully though, there is a relatively simple solution to this problem. You just need a little practice beforehand.
You need to learn the free pour.
How to Master the Free Pour
Free pouring is what bartenders do. They lift the bottle of liquor high over the glass and let the perfect amount of liquid spill into the drink. Every. Time.
While this may look like a magical feat, it's not. All it takes is a good quality, metal pour spout for your bottles and the ability to count to four. If you think you can do that, then you can definitely master the free pour.
To get the hang of the technique and be consistent in your pours, the first thing you have to do is condition yourself to know how long it takes to pour 1-1/2 ounces (a typical shot).
To do this, start with filling an empty liquor bottle with water and attach your pour spout. Take a 1-1/2 ounce jigger in one hand, stand over a sink, and pour the water into the jigger while counting in this fashion: 1-onethousand, 2-onethousand, 3-onethousand, and 4 - all the way up to six. Don't say "one thousand" after six.
If you do it correctly, you should get just to the top of the jigger. Practice this about a dozen times until you feel like you have the timing right.
That's it. Now you can lose your jigger and still pour a perfect shot!
What if my Drink Calls For a 1/2 Ounce?
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Don't worry. To pour a 1-ounce shot, simply count to four. To pour a half-ounce, count to two. It's easy math. Once you know this counting trick you can combine, omit, or change up your proportions to create the perfect craft cocktail to impress your guests. You can even blend a signature drink specifically for your party!
Pro tip: Now that you know how measuring the pour works you can double check the bartenders next time you're out to make sure they are pouring just the right amount of vermouth in your Martini or Manhattan.