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# How to free pour

Ever wonder how professional bartenders easily free pour so accurately — one ounce, one and a half, or two ounces — all without using a shot glass or jigger? How long does it take to master this skill? Check out our video below and you’ll see it takes far less time than you’d think.

At Johnny D’s , Oscar is a kick-ass bartender . . . but because the club uses a measured pour, he never perfected doing it free-hand.

A couple of weeks ago I laid down a challenge. I told Oscar that he could quickly develop this skill in less than ten minutes . . . and learn it so well that he’d immediately be able to train someone else.

Last week we actually tried it, and at the end of this introduction you can watch the video we made of our project.

You’ll see Oscar now free-pouring like a champ, and also training Brittany, a waitress at the club with no prior bartending experience.

(You’ll also learn how to do this on your own . . . in only a few minutes.)

Quick background on the “four count” . . .

Most bartenders use a standard “four count” to free-pour — a count of . . . 1 – 2 – 3 – 4. The “four count” is preferred because it breaks down so easily — “1” equals a quarter shot, “2” equals a half shot, on up to a full “4” count — which is the house pour, or one full shot.

The most common mistake when teaching this count is to put the “horse before the cart.”

I’ve seen bartenders make the trainee start pouring blind immediately. The trainee pours blind into a tin cup, then empties it into a measuring glass to see how they did . . . short pour one time, then too much the next.

Then they try again.

It’s much faster to simply pour into a long row of shot glasses, over and over. Just keep pouring into a shot glass while counting — until you have the exact count down like a musical beat . Then measure how you do with a blind pour, using that learned count . . .

Do bartenders spend their life counting . . . ?

While it’s useful to count at the beginning, just to establish the rhythm — once you have your exact count and you’ve been using it for a while — you won’t actually be counting at all.

To start, when practice is over and you’re actually working behind the bar, you’ll use a “silent count” — (as Brittany does at the 5 minute mark in the video.) Very quickly that “silent count” will become a “muscle memory.” Your wrist and arm will know the exact four-count just by the “feel” of the time your arm is raised.

The video . . .

First, I have to say that I’m not a great camera-man.

I also want to remind you (once more) that Oscar is teaching this lesson less than ten minutes after he’d learned the method himself. (This is the way we planned it . . . we wanted to demonstrate how easily the skill can be both learned, and taught.)

I guess I’m pointing this out because there sure are some rough spots in the video. There are things that we would have changed if we’d done it a second time. (For example, towards the end of the video, Oscar is interrupted by a woman wanting to purchase a Johnny D’s T-shirt.)

And if we’d done it more than once, maybe we would have cut down on the beginning of the lesson, where Brittany is just learning the feel of the bottle.

But we had already decided . . . no editing, no corrections, just one chance. So once the camera started rolling we were committed to “keep on trucking,” just to prove that learning how to “free-pour” is a ten-minute task.

(Actually, in this case, an 8 minute and 29 second effort.)

So here it is . . . if you follow the method in this video, you’ll be free-pouring like a pro in no time at all. (One suggestion: Enlarge the video to “full screen” and you can better see how accurate Brittany becomes at pouring exact shots.)

Thanks to Johnny D’s and owner Carla DeLellis for the use of her facilities and staff.

How much is in a pour of liquor? As a general rule, shots of liquor are 1 ½ ounces, while a “neat” pour (a spirit served solo in a tumbler) is slightly larger at two ounces.

This two-ounce pour also applies to most single-spirit drinks ordered “on the rocks” (with ice) or “up” (stirred with ice to chill and dilute, then strained). Though it seems bigger in the glass, the alcohol remains the same. It’s the ice and water that inflate the volume of the drink.

Pouring a shot is easy. The volume of the glass measures the liquor itself. For other types of glassware, however, you might need to rely on a jigger, or hourglass-shaped measuring cup, to portion specific amounts.

Learning how to pour precise measurements without a jigger is a useful skill for home and professional bartenders. It allows you to serve drinks more quickly and cuts down cleanup.

Many bartenders have mastered the art of perfect pours based on the sight and feel of the bottle, as well as a few small tricks. For those who want to brush up on their home bartending technique, or just make sure they’re not over- or under-serving guests, here are three to know.

Illustration by Eric DeFreitas

## The Four-Count Pour

Also called “free pouring,” this technique is often used in high-traffic bars where speed is of the essence. Bottles are topped with a speed pourer, a slightly curved metal spout with a rubber stopper. These spouts regulate the amount of air allowed into the bottle, which creates a steady, consistent flow of alcohol.

A four-count is just what it sounds like. As you pour, count to four (yes, with “Mississippi”), and stop. Each “count” should equal about ½ ounce of alcohol. With a bit of practice, what ends up in your glass should fill the 2-ounce side of a jigger. A perfect standard pour.

• Make sure the bottle is flipped almost completely upside-down to reach a steady flow. If you only tip the bottle sideways to 90 degrees, the pour rate will be slower, and you will short your guests.
• Ensure your thumb doesn’t cover the air hole on the speed pourer when you measure. This slows the flow of the liquid. It’s also an old, well-known bartender trick to short-pour customers who may be over-imbibing, while allowing them to believe they’re getting the full amount of alcohol.
• Pouring multiple drinks? “Bumping” the bottle, or a quick up-and-down motion while you pour, creates an air bubble that causes a short gap in the stream. This allows you to reposition over another glass and not spill on the counter or interrupt your pour. While completely unnecessary for most home bartenders, it still looks cool.

## Pouring a Finger

You may have heard someone say the phrase, “a finger of whiskey.” The idea is that a pour of liquor to the height of a finger held horizontally alongside the bottom of glass should roughly equal two ounces.

So, does the one of the oldest tricks in the bartending book actually hold up?

As you can imagine, it depends, both on the size of the glass and the finger. In a completely unscientific sampling of three people with various sized hands, a finger-width of alcohol was poured into three different rocks glasses. Each pour came surprisingly close to two ounces, with only a range of variation around ¼ ounce between each finger and glass.

Note that if you use a Collins or highball glass, with its narrower diameter, a finger-and-a-half is more likely to get you closer to the mark.

Illustration by Eric DeFreitas

## The Candle Technique

Take a candle, or small light, and place it next to a rocks or highball glass. In most, you’ll see a series of transparent horizontal “lines” in the glass that rise from the bottom, left from the glassmaking process. Fill to the first line (or sometimes second, if the first line seems like it’s almost touching the bottom) for a two-ounce pour.

We don’t know the science behind why this trick works (if you do, please email and fill us in), but in tests with every glass we could find, along with years of anecdotal experience in actual bars and restaurants, measurements almost always came out perfect. When we figure out the reason, we’ll let you know.

Disclaimer: While we are aware that in many places 1 ½ ounces is considered the “standard” pour of liquor rather than two ounces, our editorial stance is that these places are objectively wrong and just being cheap.

You know the scene… Crowded bar, people 3 rows deep waiting to order their drinks, an edgy and strangely luring bartender moving with the precision and anticipation of their surroundings you’d swear them a Jedi. You watch as they take three orders at once while at the same time pouring the perfect amount of liquor with one hand and adding a mixer, straw, or garnish with the other. They throw it down in front of you with a napkin and a smile and ask “would you like to open a tab”?

While there are many skilled nuances involved here (which are discussed on other posts and pages of this website) to be a working bartender, for the purpose of this post, we will argue the most fundamental skill being exercised in this scene is the ability of the bartender to pour alcohol freely with one or multiple bottles, using either hand with extremely accuracy.

This is the skill of the “free pour”, the ability for someone like a bartender, or you, to be able to pour without using any measuring device, and know exactly how much liquid is poured. The rest of this post is dedicated to explaining the basics this skill, and how if you are so inclined, can practice this at home and be able to pour perfectly yourself, in 5-10 minutes.

Before we get started, there area few things you need:

– Measuring device (two measure jigger or marked shot glass are usually best)

Measured shot glass

A two-measure jigger.

– Empty bottles (nearly any size liquor, wine, or even beer bottles are the correct size for the pour spouts to fit)

– Water (don’t start with real liquor, you’ll just end up spilling it all over the place, or worse, drink it and give yourself one helluva hangover).

Ok, so with our tools in place lets get into it!

Start by filling the empty bottles with water, then put the pour spouts in the bottles. You want a nice snug fit, but if the fit is too loose, or too tight, you may need to find other bottles.

With our basic setup in place, the next thing to focus on is how to get the rhythm and pace of our count correct.

The unofficial pouring pace is generally a four count, 1 ounce shot. This equates to roughly 1 count = 1/4 ounce. And since many recipes are in 1/4oz – 1/2oz – 1 ounce increments, you can add or subtract ingredients in precise, 1/4 ounce increments.

Take a bottle and pour into the measuring tool, stoping at 1 oz. The first few times, don’t really worry about counting, just try to get a feel for how long you’re pouring for.

Then start adding a count to the pace, shooting for a quick 1, 2, 3, 4, where you stop at 1 oz as your counting “four”. Repeat this step a few more times, counting outloud may help if you feel you’re not starting to get the hang of it.

To be an effective bartender, we need to be able to do this with both hands. So once you’ve practiced a while with your dominant hand, switch to your non-dominant hand, going through the same process as above.

Lastly we need to be able to pour two bottles at the same time. Now remember the liquid pouring during our “count” is effectively doubled, thus a 1 ounce shot will only require a “two count”, with a half-ounce of liquid pouring from each bottle. You can also practice two bottle, 1.5 once pours (3 count), and two bottle, 2 ounce pours (4 count). And as Skyy from Tipsy Bartender would say, “there you have it!”

That is all that is required to be a competent, confident free-pouring wizard, just like a real bartender. Keep practicing, throw a party to try it out for your friends, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a legitimate bartender. For more resources about bartender techniques, check out the Bartending Basics series here.

There are two kinds of bar managers in this world: those who encourage the free pour and those who are wholeheartedly against it. While each side of the argument certainly has some valid points, a lot of it might just come down to proper training. The free pour is a skill that needs to be practiced and perfected so that the drinks still taste great, customers are happy, and the bar is still turning a healthy profit.

Free Pouring Basics:

1. If you can count, you can be taught to free pour with great accuracy. The general rule of thumb is that every one count is equivalent to one-quarter of an ounce. Most drinks take 1.25 to 2 ounces. That means that to make a vodka soda with 1.25 ounces of liquor, the bartender should count to 5 before cutting off the alcohol.

2. Always pour from the neck of the bottle. Gripping the bottle from the base does not allow for the same level of accuracy. You need to make sure that all of your staff get into the habit of grabbing and holding the bottle from the neck so that they can easily flip it back and forth for accurate pours.

3. Test bartenders regularly. This doesn’t have to be anything too formal or intimidating. Just think of it as a chance to calibrate everyone’s skills. You can even add a little competitive spirit and see who can pour with the most accuracy.

The quickest and cheapest way to test skills is to simply ask for a 1.25 ounce pour into a glass. You can then pour the liquid into a jigger to see just how accurate the bartender can be. This method does give them the benefit of being able to eye their work, which seems fair considering it mimics real world bartending.

The more your bartenders are able to practice and test their proficiency, the faster they will go from counting in their head to developing a pouring muscle memory that will allow them to serve up drinks all night long with incredible accuracy. Ultimately, this provides the bar with a variety of benefits, including:

1. Faster service. Free pouring can speed up the process during busy hours because bartenders don’t have to deal with a jigger.

2. More profits. Well-trained bartenders mean fewer over-pours.

3. Great flair. A talented bartender also serves as a source of entertainment. They can provide the customer with great visuals and a delicious drink.

The truth is that with the right training, your bartenders can pour just as accurately without a jigger and you can enjoy all the benefits of free pouring.

## How to Free Pour Using One One-Thousand Pour Count System

Free pouring means pouring alcohol or mixing drinks without using any type of measuring device. As a bar consultant, I would never recommend bartenders not to use some type of measuring device however it is still an essential skill for every bartender to know.

There are times when you’re going to need to use the bartending pour count free pouring technique and you can’t always rely on a shot glass or jigger to tell you how much an ounce is.

Learn how to freepour using the 1-1000 count system. If your bar doesn’t use a jigger, shot glass or other measuring device, you still need to know how much to pour each and every time. Learning how to free pour a shot is an essential skill for any bartender to learn.

Hey there, Reese Richards from barsandbartending.com! All right, so we’ve already done a video on what is a jigger, and how to pour, so in this video, we’re going to show you how to free pour, ok, but using a count system. The most popular count system is a one/one thousand, two/one thousand, three/one thousand system…. one one/ thousand, two/one thousand, three/one thousand. So. You want to use a count system in your free pouring in your bar, and you want to make sure that you have the metal pour spouts, ok, because the plastic ones they pour at a different rate. So, all the metal ones tend to pour at the same rate. Ok?

[Transcript] Free Pouring Using Bartender Pour Count System | How to Free Pour

So, what we’re doing here is we have a shot glass, ok? And this measures out milliliters on one side and ounces on the other. And we have a half ounce, an ounce, and an ounce and a half. Ok? So, I’m going to show you, using the count system.. .and we’ll pour into the shot glass so that you can see where the measurement is. So, we’re going to come up at a forty-five degree angle into the shot glass, and when we stop we’re going to turn our wrist to cut, ok? We don’t want to just back off, because it will trail out some liquid. So, we want to turn our wrists to cut when we stop pouring, ok?

So, let’s get a shot here. So, we’re going to count now… as soon as it starts, we’re going to count one/ one thousand, two/one thousand, three/one thousand, ok? So. One/one thousand, two/ one thousand, three /one thousand, and cut! Ok? So, we’re right on the ounce line, ok? Right on the ounce line. And again, we go up and one/one thousand, two/ one thousand, three/one thousand, and I cut. I had to spit the other thousand out there a little faster so I can tell you “cut!” at the same time, so… So, uh, I’ll do it without this again… we’re right on the ounce here. And, uh, if you want to do an ounce and a half, you’ll go up to four, but don’t include the thousand, ok? So one/one thousand, two/one thousand, three/one thousand, four, and I won’t say “cut” because if I say cut then I’m going to over- pour on myself.

Ok, so I’ll stop and I’ll do an ounce and a half here. So again, we’re up at a forty-five degree angle, and one/one thousand, two/one thousand, three/one thousand four, and then I cut. Cut, ok? So, we’re right on the ounce and a half line here, ok? Exact ounce and a half. And you want to practice this at home, and just keep… uh… this is a bottle of water. Obviously, it’s not Bacardi here, so just use a bottle of water, and you can keep on practicing and practicing. Ok? And, uh, to see how accurate you are, after you are finished using the shot glass or the measuring shot glass, what you want to do now is empty out your glass, ok? And then try it into your glass as if you were free pouring at work. So, again, whether it’s an ounce or an ounce and a half… I prefer to use an ounce, so I count to three one thousands. Ok? So, one/one thousand, two/one thousand, three/one thousand. Stop, ok? And now you want to see how accurate that is, so you want to measure your pours back.

So let’s pour this back into our measuring shot glass, and we’ll see how accurate we are. Ok? And in this case, the line is just above an ounce, ok? So, it was a tad above an ounce. So, keep practicing that. There’s some liquid in the glass still… anyway, keep practicing that, and you should be within like a tenth of an ounce. Ok? Uh, again, one/one thousand, two/one thousand, three/one thousand, and just measure… keep on doing it until you measure exactly how fast you have to go for. And, uh, if you work at a bar that has jiggers.. ok, we have one ounce here, one and a half on the other side… so, again, we’re doing one/one thousand, two/one thousand, three/one thousand, stop. Ok? A full ounce. And then the other side… one/one thousand, two/one thousand, three/one thousand, four. Ok? Stop. A full ounce and a half.

Ok, so practice on your own. Put it into the cup, measure it back into a measuring shot glass or a jigger if you have it, and that’s how you do the one/one thousand, two/one thousand, three/one thousand pouring count.

Note: Some people might find it easier to use a four-count system as it can easily be divided into 1/4 ounces. Use the free pour system that works best for you. Practise until you get comfortable and can free pour 1-ounce shots at will!

About the Author: You may have seen Michael Neff behind the bar at New York’s Ward III and The Rum House. He’ll be stopping by each week to share insights on cocktails and the life of a barman, with occasional recipes.

The jigger. It has become the ensign of the serious mixologist. A debate has developed around this conical measuring tool, and whether those of us who eschew its use can be considered "serious" as well.

The pro-jigger argument begins like this: Cocktails have precise recipes. Shifting ingredients even 1⁄8 of an ounce destroys the balance these recipes hope to achieve. Destroying the balance destroys the cocktail, thus there is no way to make a true cocktail unless a jigger is used to ensure precise measurement.

The counter-argument goes something like this: Jiggering destroys speed, flair, and creativity. Worse, it allows inexperienced puppies to skip vital training steps, calling themselves bartenders when they should still be washing glasses. There is so much more to bartending than making drinks, and the finer points of the craft cannot be learned from the pages of a recipe book.

Derogatory terms are copious and colorful on both sides. I've heard reference to "free-pouring morons" and "the Jigger Brigade". One side is accused of making crappy drinks; the other of making crappy bars.

Now, I am a proud member of the free-pouring community. To paraphrase the great Gary Regan, "I'll hit the top of the glass every time." I recalibrate my pour on a weekly basis, and woe betide the puppy who sidles up to my bar and tells me I don't make "serious" cocktails because I don't measure. My response, its politeness issued in inverse proportion to the number of people at my bar, is usually "Just because you can't free pour doesn't mean no one can."

A well-trained bartender can free-pour as accurately as his jiggering counterpart. It is a difficult skill to learn, and there aren't a lot of people around who care to teach it. Which is a pity. I believe free-pouring exists at the point where craft and skill converge, and forces us to build more thoughtful cocktails.

"building a cocktail requires constant monitoring"

For me, building a cocktail requires constant monitoring, and requires me to engage all of my senses. Even in the most trying circumstances ("In the weeds," as we say), I hear the flow of the spirit coming out of the pour spout, I watch it and adjust for discrepancies of air-gaps and stutter-starts. I feel the weight of the mixing glass in my hand. I constantly smell what's going on in the glass. I taste every cocktail I make, even those I've made a thousand times. It's not easy, because I can't shut off my brain, but the process allows me to put my personal imprimatur on every drink that I make.

I feel sorry for the bartender who doesn't have this opportunity. To me, insisting on jigger-pouring is an inherent statement that you don't trust him to make his own cocktails; he's there to make another person's recipes. If he likes his Manhattans with a bit more bitters, or his daiquiris a bit less sweet, too bad. In a world where the cocktail is the focus, and not the person making nor drinking it, we miss a lot of opportunities to grow.

The Jigger Brigade will tell you that their way is the only way to make a cocktail correctly, but the truth is that there are no absolutes. No one has the ultimate calibrating palate that says what is or is not balanced. No one can say what is universally good. To preach otherwise is to forget that what we do is meant to be consumed by humans, not analyzed by a chromatograph.

We Free-Pouring Morons will tell you that jiggering has no soul, and places orthodoxy over taste and experience. That's not entirely true either. I've known many an innovative bartender who prefers using jiggers. Their fantastically creative cocktails make their argument for them.

Ultimately, a well-made drink doesn't know how it was made. Jigger or free-pour, all of us stand on the shoulders of giants, deriving, revising, and sometimes improvising, until we come up with something that we think is worth putting in a glass. Regardless of how we get there, that well-made drink is the point.

## Crafted and inspired by passionate bartenders, we are committed to empowering you as you advance your bartending career.

Our interactive and intuitive courses guide you at every step of your journey. Paired with our diverse roster of shows, we give you the tools to take your bartending to the next level Do you want to improve your skills and knowledge in the bartending industry? Or are you more interested in connecting with the international bartending community?

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Using our unique platform, we encourage you to explore exciting opportunities for your bartending career, amplify your skills, and enhance your talents, knowledge and serving abilities. Together, we can explore the art, craft, and business of cocktail making through engaging courses, shows, and documentaries.

Learn and grow at your own pace and rhythm. Use the app in your own time, whether it’s right before a shift, commuting to work, or while relaxing at home. You decide!

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Short-format and intuitive learning tools on spirit categories and essential bartending techniques to boost your skills and improve your personal leadership at work.

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Phenomenal opportunities to inspire and learn from a large community of bartenders around the world.

One of the most essential bar skills is pouring. Not only does a good pouring technique improve speed of service but ensures your customer gets a consistent quality serve every time. It also reduces wastage and keeps you on the good side of your bar manager. So let’s get started.

## Essential tools for pouring

Pour spouts

Pour spouts are used to control the pouring of drinks. Pourers should be stored in a safe place and put on to your most commonly used bottles at the beginning of service.

Jigger

Jiggers are used to pour accurate amounts of spirit. The maximum legal amount of each measure varies around the world so best to check with your manager as to your local limit.

Rinse all your jiggers between serves to ensure liquids don’t mix. Jiggers should be stored together on a drainage tray on the bar top.

## TOP TIPS FOR THE PERFECT POUR

• Set all pour spouts in the same direction – to the right as you view the bottles.
• Always pour in front of your customers, with the bottle label facing them.
• Taste the drink before serving (by using a straw) to ensure the quality and consistency of your drinks.
• Never over-pour spirits as this can ruin the taste of the drink and will cost you money.

## How to perfect the fresh hand cut

This technique is one of the most elegant and effective ways to pour. Use a pour spout and jigger and follow these steps:

1. Check the seal of the bottle and make sure the pourer is a good fit.

2. Hold the bottle firmly at the neck.

3. Keep your thumb or index finger on the pourer cap.

4. With the bottle held high, pour a steady stream.

5. To stop the flow, rotate your wrist around and down.

6. Remember, the bottle moves, the jigger stays still.

7. Hold the jigger above the tin and below eye-level.

8. Pour the lip of the measure then pour into the glass or mixing glass.

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### PERFECTLY SERVED DRINKS

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### UBER BAR TOOLS

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### WASTAGE CALCULATOR

Improving your speed and efficiency can also reduce wastage of stock. Over pouring and spillages not only affects your bar’s profits but when measures are wrong.

The quantity pricing below reflects a per unit price without upgrades if available.

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Normal-flow, hard plastic free-pour spout with a medium-sized red colored poly-cork for bottles with necks close to 1″ (25mm) inside diameter. This specialty spout will fit 750ml and liter bottles of Patron, Sauza, Don Julio, Hornitos, The new 3 Olives Bottle, Absolut, Belvedere, Smirinoff, Sterling, Gentleman Jack, Dewars, J&B, Johnnie Walker, Glenfiddich, Old Bushmills, Pyrat Rum, X-Rated and other bottles with medium-sized necks.

The Patron spout can also be used on many half-gallon and 1.75 liter bottles. If you have bottles with wider necks where this medium poly-cork is loose in the bottle neck, you will need to order the 1800 Spout with a large amber colored poly-cork.

Unfortunately, there is no spout that fits the 1.75 liter bottle of Patron tequila due to it’s enormous bottle neck size. We recommend switching to the 750ml Patron bottle and purchasing these Patron spouts with medium corks.

This normal-flow pourer will empty a liter bottle in 53 seconds. &nbsp Bartenders can pour 1 ounce by counting “One One-Thousand One”.

We ship spouts with CLEAR TOPS the same day.

Colors available in addition to our most popular Clear top spout are Red , Smoke , Green , Neon Blue , Neon Red or Neon Green .
Special orders may take an additional 2 – 3 days. Add 50¢ each if you want spouts with colored tops

Helpful Suggestion: Assign a different color spout to each of the different liquor prices. For example, put the clear top on \$4 liquors, the smoke top on \$5 liquors, the red top on \$6 liquors, etc. Bartenders will know what price to ring into the register by which spout color is on the bottle.

For an additional 50¢ you can add Fliptops to help keep out insects, smoke and debris.

If you were looking for pour spouts that automatically portions the shot &nbspClick Here