Making a great cocktail straddles the line between art and science. There is no better illustration of this concept than with regards to measurement. There are usually two camps when it comes to measurement: those who lean towards measuring and those who prefer the free-hand approach.
Here at The Portland Pour, we believe that proper measurement is one of the most fundamental parts of crafting cocktails. While there certainly are times when a liberal hand with booze is appreciated, a craft cocktail when done correctly should be measured.
While doing research, I was surprised to find that some professional bartenders identified with the eyeball pour camp. While there might be something to be said for this method in the case of a true drink artist, there are a few reasons why the vast majority of mixologists should measure.
If you are making drinks at home--and aren’t planning to drive--this aspect is not as important. However for professional bar keeps, serving a consistent amount of alcohol is a basic skill of bar tending. Minding serving size not only keeps a professional consistency in your drinks, but it also allows you to more accurately gauge how much alcohol a customer is consuming and when to cut someone off.
Knowing your measurements actually can play a key part of the aesthetic presentation of a drink. As an amateur with the most modest of experience, I’ve at times been less sure-handed with my measurements. The result is either having too much liquid for my glass, or even worse, having a comically small amount.
Knowing how much liquid will end up in the cup, helps ensure that you will have a drink that is appropriate for your serving glass, and you won’t have the same experience as I did.
Measuring is an integral part of creating the taste profile that you are looking for. Take the Martini for example. A Martini’s signature flavor is derived from the combination of gin and vermouth. The classic formula of the drink is 2 to 1 respectively. Some people prefer to have a sweeter drink and will err closer to an even ratio. In any case the relationship between the two is what makes the signature flavor of the martini. And barring the skill of eyeballing perfect shots, measuring is the only way to consistently get that flavor.
Notes and experiments
Measuring not only allows you better control, but it also empowers you to make adjustments. As long as someone has the materials, they could technically be capable of creating the exact same cocktail, knowing the proper ratios.
Measuring out exact proportions of alcohol when mixing also allows you to take better stock about how to improve the flavor of your drinks. Let’s say that 1-to-1 Martini you made was a little too wet for your taste, but a traditional 2-to-1 Martini is too dry. You could adjust your recipe according to your tastes with the accuracy of someone who knows the two extremes.
Even when you already know how to make the drink you like, and feel confident with eyeballing your proportions, measuring can help you better experiment with your recipes. For instance, when substituting different liquor's in your recipe, you might experiment with the ratio depending on its composition. Having units of measurement to work with makes this experimentation a lot more substantive.
While home pours should have their place--I’m thinking of straight rye over the rocks, and any iteration of a spirit and soda--a cocktail should always be measured, for taste, consistency and experimentation. For more information on how to measure like a professional, check out our article on How to Measure.