Especially for those who love mixing up a good cocktail, an accurate bar measurement tool is a vitally important thing to have on hand. This is where a jigger comes in. A cocktail jigger, which is essentially an alcohol measuring cup, is a staple at any bar.
What is a jigger?
A cocktail jigger is a shot or cocktail measuring cup for bartenders, ranging in sizes of 0.5-2.5 oz. For ease of use, many jiggers have fill lines on the inside or outside with oft-used cocktail or shot glass measurements.
The word jigger can also be used as a unit of measurement in cocktail recipes. If you happen to come across a recipe that calls for a jigger (or jigger shot) of any spirit, that refers to the standard jigger size of 1.5 oz. Shot glasses come in various sizes, but a standard shot glass is also 1.5 oz. So in some instances, a jigger and a shot can refer to the same thing. A smaller 1 oz shot, or the 1 oz side of the jigger, is referred to as a “pony shot.”
Types of Liquor Shots
Type of pour
Amount to pour (oz)
Amount to pour (ml)
≈ 45 ml (44.36)
≈ 30 ml (29.57)
≈ 90 ml (88.7)
≈ 60 ml (59.14)
The invention of the cocktail jigger
For many years, the only alcohol measuring tool was a smaller glass. The best way to measure the amount of spirit one was adding to a cocktail was with a 2 oz. sherry glass. This led to inexact, messy pours from a glass that was not meant for measurement.
That all changed when the double-sided cocktail jigger was officially patented on September 5th, 1893 by a genius/hero named Cornelius P. Dungan in Chicago, IL. Dungan’s design of two different-sized cone shapes on opposite ends of the same vessel is still a popular design among many bartender jiggers in use today.
Why is it called a jigger anyway?
There is some debate as to where the name ‘jigger’ comes from. It is often credited to British sailors, who named their daily allowance of booze after the jiggermast sails on their ships. The jiggermast is the smallest mast on a ship, so it can be assumed the sailors used the nickname as a form of grievance that their drink rations were a little light.
One of the very earliest references to this word is the phrase “Jiggar boss”, referenced in an 1836 book A Narrative of Travels in the United States of America by William O’Bryan. This “boss” was a young boy who would bring a half gill of whiskey, called a jiggar, to Irish canal workers a whopping 16 times a day! A half gill of whiskey is 2.5 oz, so according to O’Bryan’s word, these people were drinking 40 oz of whiskey per day. A liter is 33.8 oz, so either O’Bryan has his numbers off, or these men were obliterated drunk every day.
The other explanation is that the word jigger is just another form of the word ‘thingamajig’. Meaning many didn’t know what the hell it was back then, or what to call it. The word thingamajig originated around 1870, so it is possible that cocktail jiggers are the reason for this phrase. What a claim to fame.
How to use a cocktail jigger
Filling a cocktail jigger seems like a simple enough task on the surface, but there are some finer points to remember to improve your speed and accuracy. Before you begin we recommend that you equip your liquor bottles with a free flow bottle pourer for added accuracy and to minimize spills when pouring.
- Use two fingers to hold your jigger, either your thumb and index finger or your index and middle fingers with your palm facing upwards. This allows you to empty your jigger with a simple turn of your wrist once it’s filled.
- Hold the jigger near the rim of the glass you are going to be emptying it into. This saves time and eliminates the chance of spilling liquid while moving the jigger near the glass. You don't want to fill the jigger over your mixing glass or shaker because any spillage would go into your drink, which will throw off your recipe.
- How you hold the bottle you are pouring will depend on if it has a speed pourer or not. Hold bottles with speed pourers at the neck to be able to stop pouring quickly while bottles without pourers should be held in the middle.
- Be sure to fill your jigger completely to the top if you need the maximum amount of liquid it can hold.
- Inexperienced mixologists can practice filling and emptying their jigger to get more comfortable with the process by using an empty liquor bottle filled with water.
Different styles of cocktail jiggers
A basic bar jigger is often referred to as a double jigger. A double bartender jigger has two sides that measure two different amounts. The most common combinations for jiggers that you’ll find are 1 oz & 2 oz and 1.5 oz & .75 oz.
A Japanese jigger offers more than just its sleek look. Japanese-style jiggers are designed more angular than a double jigger, with a thinner diameter and more height. This makes them easier to pour from and to be more exact. With a smaller diameter, a couple millimeters over your desired pour is less of a difference in liquid than with a wider cocktail jigger. Japanese jiggers also offer a few different liquor measurements on the inside rim of the hourglass design. This makes them the perfect bartender measuring cup for nearly any amount of liquor. They do require a little more concentration to avoid spillage when being poured into, though.
Perfect for a beginning bartender, a stepped jigger is the easiest design for getting it just right, no matter the amount. The stepped design offers many of the favored jigger measurements on the outside, and also features measured steps for each amount, visible from the top or the outside.
Featuring an ergonomic design, the bell jigger has cups with rounded curves and a narrow midsection that is easy to hold and pour. The straight rims on this style of jigger make it easy to completely empty it while providing a stable base when it’s standing on your bar.
The Non-Jigger: Precision Liquor Bottle Pourers
Measured liquor bottle pourers can perform a similar task as a cocktail jigger. They are especially useful for busy bartenders, as their pour spouts measure the exact same amount every time. This eliminates losses of booze caused by extra drips and heavy-handed pours.
Whichever style of jigger you decide to go with, make sure the next time you pour a shot or craft a cocktail, you have some sort of ‘thingamajig’. Be sure to check out KegWorks’ full selection of cocktail jiggers to find the one right for you. Stocking your bar with the proper tools makes a bartender’s life a little easier, and drinks a lot more precisely. Let us know in the comments which type of jigger you prefer.
KegWorks has been selling cool tools for drinking and serving knowledge on tap since 1998. We are all about enjoying good drinks with good friends.