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Nov 6, 2013 03:53 PM

Question about standard pour in US

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?


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  1. 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

      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

        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

          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?

      2. 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. 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

            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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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

                      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

                        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

                          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. 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

                    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

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