Why Do Bartenders Free Pour? [Advanced Method]

why do bartenders free pour
Joe | Last Updated: November 22, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

Free pouring is a common practice among bartenders, involving the dispensing of liquor directly from the bottle into a glass or shaker without the use of a measuring device.

It’s a staple in bars worldwide, with many bartenders switching between using a jigger and free pouring frequently.

But why do bartenders free pour instead of sticking to the precision of jiggers or measuring cups?

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the reasons behind this practice, exploring how it impacts the pace of service, the accuracy, and how it’s done in the first place.

Let’s get to it…

Why Do Bartenders Free Pour?

This technique speeds up the drink-making process, allowing bartenders to serve customers more efficiently, especially in busy settings.

Free pouring also demonstrates skill and confidence, as it requires a good understanding of pour counts and ratios to ensure consistent drink quality.

Here are some other common reasons why bartenders free pour:

1. Shows Professionalism

Free pouring brings a touch of professionalism that can’t be understated.

Bartenders who master this technique transform each drink they make into a captivating performance which can play a role in enhancing the customer’s experience (if done correctly!)

2. Customer Satisfaction

Customers often appreciate the personal touch of a bartender skillfully measuring a pour without relying on jiggers or automated devices.

The perception of a generous pour can even encourage higher tips and repeat business.

3. Enhances Customer Experience

Free pouring adds an element of drama and flair to the bartending experience and can be a conversation starter between the bartender and the customer.

This excitement creates an allure that keeps customers returning for the experience as much as for the drinks.

4. Speedy Service

From a bartender’s perspective, free pouring is a godsend.

It drastically speeds up the amount of time needed to create drinks which is why you’ll find many bartenders freepouring during peak hours.

Whilst using a jigger is more precise, it’s slow and can mean customers are waiting at the bar longer for their drinks.

5. It Looks Cool

Free pouring adds a touch of flair to the bartender’s usual routine. With a watchful eye, they skillfully control the stream, creating a visual treat for patrons. 

why do bartenders free pour
Photo by Maor Attias

The cool factor of free pouring lies in the ability to entertain while whipping up drinks.

Jiggering lacks this flair and customers may think the bartender is being too careful and precise with the portions.

6. More Revenue

When it comes to tips and efficiency, the battle between jiggering and free pouring intensifies.

Jiggering provides a measured approach, but some argue it’s too slow and boring, which is fine for high-end establishments, but in the rush of a nightclub sometimes a jigger just doesn’t cut it.

Free pouring, on the other hand, can speed up service, leading to more drinks poured and more revenue being made.

Jigger Vs. Free Pouring

When it comes to mixing drinks, there’s a bit of a divide in the bartending world. On one side, you’ve got jiggering, which is all about precision.

Picture a bartender meticulously using those little measuring cups, like shot glasses or jiggers. It works a charm, but it’s slow.

Using these tools, bartenders can nail the exact measurements, ensuring that each cocktail tastes just as good as the last.

It’s perfect for when the bar is slow or the bartender is just starting out, but there are times when a jigger just doesn’t cut it and you need to adapt your serving style for speed.

This is where free pouring comes in and is where bartenders get to show off a bit.

It’s all about flair, confidence, and a bit of showmanship. But free pouring is also an art that requires a lot of practice.

Bartenders need to develop a kind of muscle memory and get their pour counts just right to maintain consistency.

It might look easy and laid back, but if you go overboard and overpour, the drink will be too strong and likely be returned.

Basic Tricks Of A Free Pouring Bartender

The Four-Count Pour

This technique is ideal for happy hours, weekends, or generally busy bars that prioritize speed over accuracy.

It involves speed pourers—metal spouts with rubber stoppers regulating airflow.

How It Works

  • Execute a four-pour count, with each count equaling about ½ ounce of booze.
  • With practice, achieve a perfect 2-ounce pour, aligning with a standard jigger.

Pro Tip

  • Ensure the bottle is nearly upside-down for a steady stream.
  • Avoid covering the air hole of the speed pourer with your thumb to maintain a steady pour rate.

The Candle Technique

Basically, you need a candle or small light next to a rocks or highball glass for this clever pouring trick.

The transparent horizontal lines in the glass serve as markers for precise measurements.

How It Works

  • Identify the lines, often remnants from the glassmaking process, rising from the bottom.
  • Fill the glass to the first or sometimes second line for a consistent two-ounce pour.

Pouring A Finger

Ever heard of “a finger of whiskey”? The concept involves pouring alcohol to the height of a horizontally held finger, aiming for around two ounces.

While not an exact science, the finger-pour technique proves surprisingly effective for a quick and easy two-ounce measure.

How It Works

  • Start with an empty glass, preferably a standard whiskey glass or tumbler.
  • Place your finger horizontally just above the bottom of the glass. This is your measuring guide.
  • Slowly pour the whiskey into the glass, keeping an eye on the level of the liquid. You want to stop pouring once the whiskey reaches the top of your finger.

Pro Tip

  • For Collins or highball glasses with narrower diameters, a finger-and-a-half will be more accurate.

Final Words

Free pouring is a highly efficient technique that blends speed, flair, and a personal touch in every drink served.

But it’s not for beginners. Free pouring with accuracy takes time and a lot of practice, so don’t abandon the jigger just yet if you’re just starting out.

While free pouring is great for rapid service, it’s a risky strategy for bar managers. If the bartenders begin overpouring, they can actually lose revenue and eat into profits.

So it’s often best to stick with the jigger until you master the free pour, and practice in quiet periods with a speed pourer and bottle of water first.