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One of my frustrations in the modern trend of cocktails, is that many people seem to think bigger is better. Why can't they learn that this isn't good for the customer, or the business.
Levels of Measure

Adjusting The Volume

One day, when looking through some of the cocktail recipes in my database, I noticed that I really hadn't made any specific effort at providing a standard "size" which the recipes would stay within. Some of my recipes might call for as little as 1 3/4 ounces of liquid, while another might call for 3 1/2 ounces. Clearly scrubbing my database and trying to resolve this issue is in order, but thinking about this got me to wondering exactly how big my "standard" size should be?

The first stop at determining the proper size of the recipe is the cocktail glass itself. The recipe provided needs to be one that will adequately fill whatever cocktail glass you are using. So there are two factors that need addressing, how big the total volume of the cocktail glass contains, and how much of a "collar" do you want to provide. A collar is the space between the top of the drink, and the top rim of the glass itself. Far too often I see bartenders attempt to fill a glass clear to its rim, sometimes this might be simply due to using too much booze in the mixer, but it can also be to make the customer feel like they aren't getting shorted. However, this ends up creating a drink that is to awkward to take the first few sips from without spilling it on yourself, and it also plays havoc with the pricing if it isn't done in a consistent fashion.

There are several different styles and sizes of cocktail glasses that I have in my collection, ranging from a very beautiful German crystal glass which hold only about 3 ounces, to a it's full size twin which maxes out at 8 ounces. In between, I've got several glasses that come in at 4 ounces and 6 ounces. The 3 ounce glass, as beautiful as it is, really seems small. It's great for when I want to experiment with several different cocktails during the course of the evening, but it clearly is just too small for practical use. My 4 ounce glasses are all slightly unique in their style, which makes them a lot of fun to use. They do seem just a little bit on the small side, so they too probably wouldn't quite work in a commercial setting, but they are fine for little cocktail parties with friends. My 6 ounce glasses are a little more traditional in design, although this particular brand is of a cheaper design then my other glasses, and has a rather thick rim on it, which is why I don't use them very often. Size wise however they are quite appropriate, seeming neither "large" nor "small", but sitting nicely between the two.

For my experimentation I started with the 8 ounce glass, since it had the most classic design, and is in fact the glass that I use the most. I poured water into it until I felt that it attained just the right amount of collar to be both practical, as well as visually well proportioned. I then measured this water and saw that I had just about 4 1/2 ounces in it.  This of course is the amount of liquid poured into the glass, which will be more then the amount of liquid that makes up the recipe since, as we all know, an important ingredient in any cocktail is the water that is released by the ice that is used to chill the drink down. So to get an approximation of how much liquid should be in the "recipe", I put 3 1/2 ounces of water into a mixing glass, added some ice, and then stirred this until the water was well chilled. Pouring this into my cocktail glass gave me a drink that retained a nice collar on my 8 ounce glass.

I wanted to continue with my experimentation just a little longer, and see where I felt that there were various "limits" to the collar, and at one point the glass was clearly too full, as well as not full enough. So I emptied the glass out, and then added one ounce at a time, and took measurements along the way so I could track the progress. I'm sure that there are mathematical formulas that can be used to graph this out, but math never was one of my strong suits, so I did this the old fashioned way.

Alt TextIn the diagram shown here, you can see the results of my experimentations. It's kind of hard to get a good feeling of how these different levels visually feel in the glass from this diagram, but for this 8 ounce glass, 4 ounces would be the absolute minimum you'd want to serve without making it look like you were shorting the customer, and at around 5 1/2 ounces the collar was getting way to close to the glasses rim for my tastes. Thus the 4 1/2 ounce pour worked pretty well being between these two boundaries. It is interesting to note that the visual difference between a 7 and 8 ounce pour is extremely little, and if this were a 10 ounce glass instead, those additional two ounces would again have very little visual difference between them. And besides, a 10 ounce Martini would certainly be way too much.

As I've always said, the goal of drinking should not simply be to get drunk, but it should be to enjoy yourself, the company of your friends, and to also be able to appreciate the culinary aspects of the cocktails you are drinking. Ideally, you would want to have more then just a single cocktail, not only does this allow you to try a couple different drinks in a sitting, but it also allows the overall time to take longer. So it makes sense to focus on serving cocktails that are large enough so that you don't think you are drinking only a thimbleful, but small enough so that the amount of alcohol you are consuming in a single glass doesn't put you over your limit. I feel that my 6 ounce glass represents the smallest a commercial establishment would want to use, with the 8 ounce being the largest anybody should use. Perhaps I should try to find a set of nice 7 ounce glasses to add to my collection, they might just turn out to be my favorite size.

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