So I am driving through a Starbucks today, and I overhear a conversation between the barista and the woman in the car.

Woman: Excuse me, but I think my drink is too sweet.
Barista: I’m sorry, let me fix that for you.
Woman: Thanks, I’d appreciate that.
Barista: No problem. We free-pour our syrups so sometimes that happens.

What do you mean you free pour your syrups? Why would you do that? They provide you with these handy little pre-measured pumps, and you can’t even bother to use them cause you think you are that awesome? Clearly you are not, so you should probably stick with the pumps.

This helps illustrate some important points that are valid for baristas and bartenders alike.

1. You should only free pour anything if you know what you are doing, and can do it consistently day in and day out. Too many times you will find establishments that allow free pouring and their drinks show a lack of consistency.

2. A Little goes a long way. When using potent ingredients, a small amount too much or too little can break the balance. Think about a peppermint latte. Too much and you have a cloying medicinal mint flavor that makes you want to vomit. Too little, and you may as well have skipped the syrup altogether because it is flat and tasteless. In cocktails, we often call for dashes and drops. These are actual measurements and not just guesses. If a drink calls for drops, then it means it. Otherwise you might as well just drink the item on its own if the whole thing is going to taste like a single ingredient anyways.

3. There is absolutely nothing wrong with measuring. You don’t bake a cake without measuring the ingredients carefully, and while you can season food without measuring, usually it can be rectified if you accidentally put too much of something in. Not with a drink. If you keep adding other things to balance it out, more than likely you’ll just make it worse. Experienced professionals who are more than capable of free pouring, often still measure.

My personal habits are as follows: If I have never made the drink before, I measure. If the drink has more than 2 ingredients, I measure. If I am making a rum and coke, etc.., I usually just pour. If I have made a drink hundreds of times, I might measure and I might pour, it depends on the drink. When making a whiskey sour for example, I will pour. I have made it enough times that I can make a drink that is consistent time and again.

So ends my rant on measure vs pour. But take note. If you pour me a drink twice and they don’t taste the same, I may not let you pour me another.