What is a Jigger? - Bartending Tools Guide

When it comes to bartending there are few tools more important than the humble jigger. Whether crafting cocktails or pouring simple mixed drinks, accuracy in measuring out your ingredients is of the utmost importance. A jigger not only helps measure out liquor and other liquids, it also gives the bartender a steady pour improving the quality and consistency of their drinks.

I’m firmly of the opinion that if bartending and mixology is a craft (and it most certainly is!) then we should treat the tools of our trade like any other craftsman does - with the respect and reverence they deserve. Investing in high quality bartending tools that not only help us make great drinks but also stand the test of time is the first step. Pride of place in any bartender’s toolkit is his or her trusty jigger.

bar man pouring liquor into a jigger

What Exactly is a Jigger?

On the face of it a jigger is a simple measuring device - a tool used for measuring and pouring all the various components of your drink. On a deeper level, though, it’s a symbol of the professionalism and attention to detail that defines the craft of bartending. There are all sorts of variations in size, style and material to suit a bartender’s individual preferences and needs - which we’ll dive into below.

How Many Ounces are in a Jigger?

The size is of an “original” jigger is 1.5 ounces on the larger end and 0.75 ounces on the smaller end. However, most jiggers today are either 0.5 and 1 oz, or 1 and 2 oz.

The most useful size for modern bartending is the double size jigger: 1 ounce on the small side and 2 ounces on the large side. That’s because this can be used to measure out the ingredients for most drinks. A standard single shot when you order a rum and coke at a bar is 1 oz, for instance, and a double is 2 oz.

Likewise, many classic cocktails have ingredients in some variation of a 2:1:0.5 ratio. A Cosmopolitan, for example, has 2 oz vodka, 1 oz cranberry juice, 1/2 oz of Cointreau and 1/2 oz lime juice.  All of these can be measured quickly and efficiently from a double jigger. To get a 1/2 oz you simply fill the 1 oz side up half way.

Styles of Jigger


This is the style you’ll find in most bars. With a wide-mouthed cup shape it’s ideal for fast pouring. However, the more widely flared the mouth of the jigger is, the more difficult it is to handle. The classic style isn’t so precise in its pouring so you need to take care to avoid spillage when pouring your liquor.

Another issue I find with the classic jigger is that many manufacturers simply stick the two cups together, so they can easily fall apart. It’s important to find one that’s well built.

Classic style jigger lying on its side



This is my favorite style of jigger, not only for its elegant style but also for its precision in pouring. As it’s taller and thinner, the diameter of its mouth is smaller. They also have a slightly wider lip which makes it easier to maneuver without spilling.

Japanese style jigger


This one’s like a hybrid between the classic and the Japanese jigger. With a wider-mouthed cup it still needs a steady hand, but it does certainly look more upscale than the classic style. They’re skinny around the middle which makes them more ergonomic and easier to grip.

Bell style bar jigger

With Handle

They do look kind of cool, but I wouldn’t recommend this style. As you can imagine the further away your hand is from the cup the less control you have. It’s much easier to end up over or under pouring with this type of jigger.

A stainless steel jigger with a handle


The favorite of every pub and sports bar, these handy little pouring implements don’t look the part but they get the job done. If you’re looking for substance over form they can be a good choice.

Three thimble style bar jiggers side by side

Other Things to Look Out For

Aside from the size and style of your jigger - which are both important - there are several other things you should look out for. First, the material it’s made from. Your jigger should always be made from 304 stainless steel (otherwise called 18/8), which is food safe. Anything else can leach harmful chemicals into your drinks.

History of the Jigger

The term “jigger” emerged in the 19th Century as a standard measure for alcohol - equivalent to 1.5 oz, and the cup used to measure out this volume of liquor was also given the same name. It evolved over the years along with cocktails themselves - after all when a jigger was first invented many of the classic cocktails still hadn’t been thought up yet!

As cocktails themselves became more sophisticated and their ingredients more complex, a more delicate implement was needed to carefully and accurately pour these ingredients. Throughout the years various types of jiggers were invented which is why we still have such an array to choose from today. Many of these were made of tin or copper before the rise of  stainless steel and the durable, rust-proof jiggers of today.

Parting Words

In mixology and bartending precision is the name of the game. It might be tempting at times to free pour my liquor but whenever I want to make a classic cocktail exactly by the book, a jigger is the bar tool I always find myself reaching for. Hopefully with the information in this article you can now go and find the best jigger for your own bartending needs.

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