It used to be that when you saw a bartender using a jigger—a small measuring cup for drinks—you assumed he was either a new bartender or micromanaged by his superiors. Why else wouldn't he just "count," whereby you pour the bottle and issue a count in your head equivalent to the cup-measured pour?
Worse yet, the assumption would be that the bartender was being cheap. Nothing erodes customer confidence quicker than an ungenerous bartender, and the dual-sided metal cups might well have been the mascot of this stinginess. Of course, times change.
With the rise of bartending culture and classic cocktails, the jigger has become the mark of precision and care in crafting cocktails. We have now come to expect our Manhattans and Martinis will be made with some mathematical formulae—two to one or three to one—and measured to order. This is good news for cocktail purists.
It's been pointed out by industry luminaries that making cocktails resembles baking more than savory cooking. With baking you must measure ingredients in advance of cooking because after heat has been applied the product changes dramatically in texture and flavor. The same thing happens when we shake the cocktail with ice.
With savory cooking, often you can manipulate the product in process. A pinch of this or a pinch of that can be added to a flavorless sauce. With a cocktail, you have to dump it out and start again. You wouldn't want to do that, would you? Imagine your college-era friends screaming: alcohol abuse!
Fortunately there is a wide range of jiggers to choose from. Here are just a few that I've tried and would recommend.
Your standard double jiggers come in two sizes, one ounce and ½ ounce, or 1 ½ ounce and ¾ ounce. These are durable, useful, and can be easily rested between your fingers for steady pours. These are recommended but suffer one major flaw. What if you want to measure out 1 ¼ ounce or ¼ ounce? You're back to guessing.
MORE ON COCKTAILS:
Derek Brown: "Intro to Blenders"
Derek Brown: "The Mint Julep"
Derek Brown: "Homemade Bitters"
OXO has some very innovative culinary tools, and it's no surprise that it extends its line for bartenders, home or professional. The OXO double jigger resembles the standard double jigger but has two distinct features. First, it has a rubber grip in the middle that makes it more comfortable to hold, and, secondly, it has increments marked within the jigger such as 1/3 ounce or ¼ ounce. The only drawback I can see is that it's twice the price.
Fortunately, OXO also makes mini angled measuring cups that are not the prettiest to look at but are highly functional and cheap. You can pour overhead and see the increments. The metal version of its mini angled measuring cup adds a more visual appeal but is useless behind a low-lit bar, as the metal with black lines is hard to read without bright lighting.
Über Bar Tools has introduced a somewhat futuristic looking jigger called the ProJig, which has multiple measurements on either side while imitating a double jigger. Great idea, but it's a little hard to get adjusted to if you normally use a standard double jigger. That can be easily overcome, so my major complaint here is that it's plastic.
Good luck jiggering!