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Crafting Better, Smarter, Stronger, Beverage Professionals

Better Bartending 

Pouring 101

You as a bartender, are not doing the guest a favor by pouring them a strong drink! Not to mention you are stealing from the owner. Yes, stealing!

Many bartenders think that if you pour a stronger drink for a customer, that you will receive a larger tip. WRONG!


Generally, a person knows their tolerance for alcohol. And they don’t want to choke on the first sip either. If you over pour, that person is going to get drunk faster then they normally do. Who does this benefit?


2 Pouring Methods:

Free Pouring: The most popular pouring method used is free pouring, allowing bartenders to pour 2-4 bottles simultaneously. This method helps improve both efficiency and speed. And while it may seem like free pouring could lead to inaccurate measurements, skilled bartenders are surprisingly accurate.


Hand Measuring: Perhaps the most accurate method of pouring, hand measuring is also one of the slowest. This is because hand measuring requires the bartender to pour each liquor into a measuring device, meaning the bartender has to pour each liquor individually.  Skilled bartenders can increase their speed by repetition.   


Free Pouring

Every 1/4 ounces should be a one count.  Meaning that a 1 ¼ ounce pour should be a 5 count.  However, speed pourers may vary depending on their size.  Beverage professionals should consistently test their own accuracy.  When the purpose of free pouring is speed, you are defeating yourself without accuracy. 


Free Pouring Self – Test

Start with filling an empty bottle with water and attaching a pouring spout.

Then take 6 glasses and set them up on the rail of the bar.  In the 1st glass pour a 1 count, in the 2nd glass pour a 2 count, in the 3rd glass pour a 3 count....

Then using a measuring device - see how accurate your pours are.  It is your job to adjust your pours to make sure that they are as accurate as possible.  As a beverage professional, you should demand perfection when you are behind the bar.


Hand Measuring

When using a jigger you must fill to the brim with the liquid’s meniscus (curve on the surface) appearing as a continuation of the jigger’s rim.  Less than this and you will have under poured, which is the tendency when people use jiggers.  When pouring to a line on the graduated measure the meniscus should be a continuation of that line. 


Pouring Basics

  • Don’t pour from anywhere except the neck of a bottle. This is where all the money is coming from! This is how a bartender controls the pouring with the most accurate grip.

  • The key to pouring accurately is the count. We estimate that every one count is a quarter of an ounce…so if a bartender can count to 5, that’s 1.25 ounces….the ideal amount. In addition, the pace at which a bartender counts is really the heart of pouring accuracy.

  • Know the drink you’re pouring, and adjust your counts accordingly. For example, when pouring a Long Island (a drink that requires two ounces of alcohol), a bartender will pour four liquor bottles at once, thus they should only be counting to two. A two-count is necessary in this case because if one count is equal to 0.25 oz, then 2 oz=0.25 oz x 4 bottles. Each drink can be different, depending on the recipe and amounts required.

  • Use the skill of “cutting” to cleanly shut off the flow of alcohol with each pour. Cuts allow a flair bartender to not only shut off the flow of alcohol, but add a bit of showmanship at the same time. There are about 11 different ways to cut alcohol. We won’t got into a lot of the details in this post, but a few of the most popular cuts are the bounce, standard twist, forward twist, wrist snap, backward draw and the forward draw.

  • When watching a bartender pour, the important thing is to watch their alcohol stream, not their hand. A bar owner can then monitor when the alcohol stops.

  • We recommend using Spill Stop’s 285-50 metal pour spout. We don’t endorse Spill Stop because we’re getting any advertising money from them. We recommend this brand because it really is the best. The plastic pour spouts are cheaper, but are not as accurate. Metal is the way to go! Don’t believe us? Take two equal bottles of water, attach the Spill Stop brand to one, and attach a generic metal pour spout to the other. The competing brand will almost always pour faster and remain inconsistent with each pour…therefore, bartenders will be less accurate.

  • Test bartenders regularly. Testing is mandatory to keep bartenders at their best. A bar manager or owner can use tools like a Pour Check, an Exacto Pouror the Fast Tender (from Flairco) to measure pours and accuracy consistently among bartending staff. Most competitive flair bartenders are judged on pouring. In addition, many professional flair bartenders perform level-testing to determine rates of pay based on accuracy and knowledge in this area. This is most common in casinos, especially in Las Vegas.

  • Don’t just practice pouring – use it regularly. It’s important bartenders not only learn how to pour, but continue to use it on a daily basis while serving customers. After all, just because a bartender can pass a pour test, doesn’t always mean he/she is accurate on the job. Monitoring bartenders during their shift will ensure bad habits don’t resurface.



Prior to each shift a bartender should test themselves with a bottle filled with water to ensure an accurate pour.  Testing should include four types of alcohol measurements.  A one ounce and a two ounce pour should be performed along with two separate fractional measurements.  Pour testing should occur on a regular basis not only prior to a shift but also during weekly or monthly meetings.  Bartenders are a function of the bar and if a bartender’s pour is too much or too less this can cause serious concerns with your beverage management systems.



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