Jigger What? - Aviation American Gin

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Jigger What?


By now, most of us know that what is most certainly one of America’s most important contributions to the world of good taste, the cocktail, is seeing a monster comeback and slowly beginning to take its rightful place as an indispensable pillar of the modern culinary experience. Many bars and restaurants, too, have seen the light acknowledging that better ingredients make a better drink and made the switch to fresh juices and the near exclusive use of premium spirits and quality ice for their mixed drinks.

Alright, let me be the first (or hopefully not) to say, “Well done on a fantastic first step!!!”, but are you ready to really go the extra mile for your and the take the next one because, well, it might raise one or two eyebrows to say the least…

A ways back while I was implementing a vintage cocktail program at notable French restaurant,  the chef, who happens to be a James Beard Award winner and an avid cocktail enthusiast, made a very interesting observation while sipping on his Natural Daiquiri(a simple combination of white rum, fresh lime juice, and sugar).  To make truly great cocktails, you have a very small margin of error, smaller even, than that of preparing a dish on the line, and precise measurement in coordination with the use of only the finest ingredients is paramount the ultimate quality of the final product.  Further, the smaller the number of ingredients in a mixed drink, the more important perfect measurement becomes as even the slightest misproportion can take drinks like a Daiquiri, a Manhattan, or even a Cosmo (and yes, I believe that when made in perfect proportion, the Cosmopolitan is a yummy drink) from a memorable cocktail experience to a something strong, yet forgettable in the span of little more than a quarter of an oz.

Now, I know we are really in cocktail geek territory here, but folks, I believe our friend is right on the money and this conversation reaffirmed my belief that if we truly want to offer each and every one of friends/guests the best cocktails we can muster, we will have to reacquaint ourselves with a little tool most of us bartenders love to hate: The jigger.

Now, for most of us who have spent any time behind the stick, the word J-I-G-G-E-R reads more like a 4 letter word and I understand the disdain.  Most bartenders see the jigger as a form of “training wheels”, not too mention a hinderance to quick cocktail production.  On top of that, a lot of guests view it purely as a way to limit the amount of “fun going into their glass”.

But I am talking strictly about cocktails here, not your common well drink or straight spirit where, yes, you can, certainly argue, the value in the drink, for most people, probably lies more in the quantity(and the brand) than anything else.

The value in a cocktail, though, is something totally different and I say, in full confidence, that the average imbiber will take a perfectly balanced cocktail that dances cleanly and crisply across the palate, than one that is strong, served in a giant glass, and completely out of balance.

Most cocktail enthusiasts would probably agree, a cocktail is about the magic that comes forth from the perfect marriage of several ingredients to create a new and exciting flavor profile.  And this, my friends, most definitely requires precision.  Further, at $10.00 a pop, why shouldn’t a guest expect the same consistency from a cocktail as they would in a glass of wine at the same price point.

So, for the 8 years, I decided to put my money where my mouth is, having not only required of myself the use of a jigger for all precision cocktails, but begun the use of jiggers for all concepts and clients.

Do I face resistance?

Of course,, but after several tastings and trainings the proof was definitely in the pudding.  Each and every one of the bartenders I have worked with agreed that, yes, missing the proper proportion by even that quarter oz. changed the cocktail a great deal and the level of consistency they gained with the jigger was worth the stretch.  Checking back with the very same bartenders, I have found that they actually learned to love the jigger and the confidence and professionalism it afforded them.

Alright, so for all of you mulling over the heresy of using a jigger, humor me, and give it a try for a day or two.  Heck, make it even easier on yourself; try simply measuring the juices and modifying agents(which is what I recommend for a busy bar), which, in smaller proportions, make the biggest difference in the final product, while continuing to free pour the base spirit; a win/win situation for everyone.


– Ryan Magarian, Bartender

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