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Question about standard pour in US

cronker Nov 6, 2013 03:53 PM

Hi Hounders,

I live in Australia and work in the hospo industry. Down here, it is a legal requirement for all bars to pour a standard 30ml spirit. We mostly use EMU's, although jiggers are still basically allowed.

I read oftentimes on restaurant and bar social media about customers complaining about weak standard drinks, or giving cudo's to bars that pour strong drinks.
So my question is: does the US have a regulated, legal standard pour for spirits and if so, is it not policed?


  1. ChristinaMason Dec 11, 2013 09:12 AM

    In most bars I've worked in, 2 oz. has been the norm. I do feel a little slighted when ordering a whisky and getting a smaller pour.

    1. StriperGuy Nov 12, 2013 06:35 AM

      Just to give you some idea. The pour you may get in a bar in the USA can vary wildly. For example at Grafton Street Bar/Restaurant in Harvard Square here in Massachusetts at times you are lucky if you get 30 ml of liquor in your drink.

      Head to the Weathervane Tavern in Hamilton, MA and I have never been served a stronger drink in my life. Order for example a gin and tonic and they will fill a pint glass 2/3 of the way with ice (we Americans like our ice) the COVER that ice with Gin, then top the remaining 1/3 of the glass full with tonic. After ONE of these cocktails I am done for the night and I am not exactly a tea totaler.

      There was also a pub in Marshfield MA that catered to a hard drinking crowd where I used to order Jim Beam on the rocks, and get a 10 oz tumber filled three quarters with ice and then filled well beyond the halfway point with bourbon. It was easily a 120 ml pour and probably 150 or more.

      You tend to see generous pours in the USA at pubs that are not fancy, and cater to a hard drinking crowd.

      1. h
        hawkeyeui93 Nov 8, 2013 07:38 AM

        The standard pour at my house is 3 ounces ... and I police it religiously! :)

        1. n
          ncyankee101 Nov 6, 2013 10:54 PM

          When I first started to drink spirits neat about 3 years ago, I got in the habit of asking each bar what their definition of a pour was, and I encountered 4 different answers in the first 4 bars. One was 1.25 oz single / 2 oz double; another was 1.5/2.25; a third was 1/1.5; and the whisk(e)y bar that specialized in single malt Scotch used 1 and 2 oz pours. The last one was the only place where the price of a double was twice the price of a single - in the rest a double was just a buck or two more.

          2 Replies
          1. re: ncyankee101
            A_Gonzalez Nov 7, 2013 02:52 PM

            I think that's also the only place where a double was twice the volume :P

            It's an interesting thought; I never considered that "double" might mean something other than, you know, double.

            1. re: A_Gonzalez
              ncyankee101 Nov 7, 2013 11:23 PM

              In the other cases, the cost for a double was nominal and it was a much better deal. For example, my first time trying Macallan 12 yr was at a restaurant called the Fox and Hound. A 1.25 oz single pour was $8.50, while a "double" 2 oz pour was only $9.50 - so kind of a no-brainer to do the double.

          2. JMF Nov 6, 2013 07:27 PM

            Could you go into a bit of an explanation about what you mean by, " pour a standard 30ml spirit"?

            (30 ml. = 1 oz. in US measurements for those in the US who aren't metric savvy.)

            I bartend and consult to bars, besides other related stuff, here in the US, NYC and the surrounding suburbs mostly at this time. As others have said, there are no rules and regulations in most areas. Some states and counties do have some regulations, but that is rare. In general each bar/restaurant decides how they want to do things, and in some place it even varies from bartender to bartender.

            9 Replies
            1. re: JMF
              cronker Nov 6, 2013 09:20 PM

              When a patron asks for, example, a scotch and coke, that drink will contain 30ml scotch. A double is 60ml. We are not supposed to serve triples, in general.

              We use electronic measuring units (EMU's) which are machines that are mounted generally overhead and the bottle sits in the dispenser upside down. When you push the button with the rim of the glass, a 30ml shot is dispensed.

              Our standard pricing runs at about $6-8 for a standard 30ml shot with mixer. AUS$ to US$ is close to parity nowadays, so should give you some idea.

              1. re: cronker
                JMF Nov 7, 2013 06:58 AM

                How does a bartender make a typical premium cocktail where the ingredients in the recipe may be something like the following?
                45 ml. / 1.5 oz. base spirit (like gin or whiskey)
                22.5 ml. / 3/4 oz. liqueur A
                7.5 ml. / 1/4 oz. liqueur B
                15 ml. / 1/2 oz. vermouth
                22.5 ml. / 3/4 oz. lemon juice

                1. re: cronker
                  JMF Nov 7, 2013 07:17 AM

                  In the US a "standard" shot or pour tends to be 1.5 oz. / 45 ml. and a double is twice as much. But it can vary as others have said. A "Pony or "short" pour or shot is 1 oz / 30 ml.

                  In cocktail recipes a "highball" tends to have either 1.5 or 2 oz. of spirits, plus ginger ale or lemon-lime soda or seltzer.

                  In cocktails... anywhere from 1-2 oz. of base spirit, and then additional amounts varying in total from .5 oz. / 7.5 ml. to 1.5 oz. / 45 ml. of other spirits and/ or liqueurs and vermouth.

                  Just in a vague general sense. A "weak" drink usually means it has apx. 1.25 to 1.5 oz. of total alcohol in it. (By total alcohol I mean a combination of base spirit, liqueurs, and vermouth/amaro.) A "good" drink has apx. 1.75 to 2.75 oz. of total spirits, and a "strong" drink has 3 oz. or more.

                  All cocktails I design usually have 1.75 - 2.5 oz. of base spirit/s, plus another .5 to 1.25 oz. of modifiers like liqueur/vermouth/amaro. Example:
                  2 oz. whiskey
                  .75 oz. Sweet Vermouth
                  .5 oz. liqueur
                  .75 oz. lemon or lime juice
                  (maybe with the addition of .25 oz. house made syrup concentrate)

                  1. re: JMF
                    cronker Nov 7, 2013 01:30 PM

                    Cocktails such as your recipe above are made just as you outline. Bartenders would make them to the recipe, and the bar would work out the pricing.

                    1. re: JMF
                      EvergreenDan Nov 8, 2013 08:01 AM

                      By "apx 1.25 to 1.5 oz of total alcohol in it", I assume you mean that volume of roughly 80 proof base spirit, not actual alcohol.

                      But cronker, if you have to use an emu, how does it emit less than 30ml?

                      1. re: EvergreenDan
                        cronker Nov 8, 2013 12:43 PM

                        Hehe, nice pic!

                        We are still allowed to use jiggers where needed for a shot that is less than 30ml.

                        One end is 30ml, other is 15ml. Most of our cocktail recipes use multiples of these measures, however often when a "dash" is called for, the bartender will free pour, although technically this isn't allowed.

                        1. re: cronker
                          EvergreenDan Nov 9, 2013 04:56 PM

                          But if the bottle is upside down in an EMU, do you have a second bottle of everything for pours other than 30mm?

                          1. re: EvergreenDan
                            cronker Nov 11, 2013 10:40 PM

                            EMU's, being quite expensive, are mostly used for house or base spirits.
                            Dark rum
                            Usually, you would have a second bottle of these on hand anyway.
                            Also, many EMU's are programmed to dispense 15ml, so you press twice for a standard pour, and can use them for half pour as well.

                        2. re: EvergreenDan
                          JMF Nov 8, 2013 06:44 PM

                          Yes, I mean 80 proof.

                  2. a
                    amishangst Nov 6, 2013 05:14 PM

                    Other than the national minimum drinking age act and maybe some distribution laws, liquor laws are generally left to the individual states - so you likely could end up with 50 different answers. 51 if you count D.C. And even then it could vary by municipalities within a state.

                    Some states may have laws like you can't serve more than a certain amount of liquor at one time to an individual (I think in on state I was in awhile back it was 4 ounces of hard liquor), but none of the states I have been to regulate the pours. The majority of the laws are more about not serving the visibly intoxicated, when and where it can be served, etc.

                    That said, the majority of restaurants and bars I have both worked in (a long time ago) and frequent as a customer, will use a jigger or those cheap pour spouts that measure out an ounce at a time, but that's more about a) having consistency in your product, particularly at restaurants, and b) being able to accurately track your inventory and assess ordering needs. But that's at the establishment's discretion how closely they keep tabs on something like that.

                    1. sku Nov 6, 2013 04:10 PM

                      No. A bar can pour whatever they want.

                      That being said, it's possible there are localities in the US that have some restriction, but I'm not aware of any. There is certainly no national regulation.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: sku
                        cronker Nov 6, 2013 04:18 PM

                        Down here, free pouring is against the licensing laws. Even if your bar doesn't have EMU's, you MUST use a jigger. Speed pourers are against the law, as is free pouring.

                        Happy hours were outlawed for a while, but that has relaxed. 2 for 1's, ladies drink free, jaeger bombs etc are all no go.

                        1. re: cronker
                          Veggo Nov 6, 2013 04:31 PM

                          Interesting. I didn't notice the jiggers when I visited, but I think I only drank beer. I recall a bar in FNQ that gave tickets for half a beer every time you bought one, which made it difficult to get out!

                          1. re: cronker
                            jaykayen Nov 6, 2013 05:38 PM

                            In one city near me, happy hours with discounted alcohol is not allowed. I don't believe any of the surrounding cities has such a rule.

                            Around here, I believe most bars pour at least 50-60 mL, anything less would be considered stingy if I'm paying more than $10 a drink. What is pricing like where you are?

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