How Do I Measure a Cocktail That Uses Parts?

You May Need to Do a Little Math, but It's Easy

Bartender measuring a cocktail using a jigger.

Milkos / Getty Images

As you browse cocktail recipes, you will often find the measurements of ingredients listed in ounces, dashes, and splashes. Those are very straightforward and you know what to do. What happens when you come across one of the many cocktails that use the term "parts" instead?

Measuring parts is quite easy. You will simply need to do a little math in order to make a great drink. Don't worry, though, it's not hard math.

How to Measure Parts

One part is any equal part. Think of it as one measure of your jigger (or whatever tool you're measuring with). Essentially, one part will become your base or foundation measurement and you will adjust the other ingredients to maintain the ratio.

For example, if you need 1 part, you would pour one full jigger. For 2 1/2 parts, pour two and a half jiggers. For 1/2 part, pour one-half of the jigger full.

The key is to first decide what 1 part equals for that particular recipe. You will then divide or multiply from there.

One thing that will help you determine that base measurement is the size of your finished cocktail. A martini glass holds a smaller volume than a highball glass, for instance, so you need to know what your end goal is before you pour. By knowing how much liquid (and ice) your glassware will hold, you can determine what your 1 part should be.

Tip: Not sure how many ounces your glass holds? The easiest way to find out is to measure it with water. Simply pour one jigger of water at a time until the glass is full and translate that into ounces: four 1 1/2-ounce jiggers equals 6 ounces. Don't forget the ice, though. If your recipe calls for ice, fill the glass with it, then do the water test because ice significantly reduces the liquid volume you need.

Illustration depicting cocktail "parts"
The Spruce / Alison Czinkota

The Easiest Parts Conversion

In many drink recipes, you can simply replace the word "parts" with "ounces." Look for recipes that have 1 1/2 parts or 2 parts for the base liquor (the sizes of the typical shot), then pour all of the ingredients with the measurements given.

The "Danny Ocean" cocktail is a perfect example:

To pour this cocktail, begin with 1 1/2 ounces tequila. Then pour 3/4 ounces of each juice, 1/2 ounce nectar, and 1/4 ounce maraschino. Most "parts" recipes are really this simple.

A Simple Parts Example

The "Pumpkin Divine" cocktail is another simple recipe measured in parts. However, this one uses 1 part rather than 1 1/2 parts. This means that you need to determine what that 1 part is going to equal.

The recipe reads:

The way to approach this one is to break the recipe down: the vodka and pumpkin butter are going to be equal in measure, as are the triple sec and simple syrup.

To make it very easy, pour 1 jigger (typically 1 1/2 ounces) each of vodka and pumpkin butter, then pour 1/2 a jigger (or 3/4 ounce) each of triple sec and syrup. The result will be a 4- to 5-ounce cocktail after shaking, the perfect size for a modern cocktail glass.

A Complex Parts Example

On very rare occasions, you may come across a drink like the "Time for a Change" cocktail. This one is rather complicated and it would be better had the person who developed it made it easier to understand. When you come across recipes like this, the most important thing to consider is how tall you want the finished drink to be.

The recipe reads:

Because this is in a cocktail glass, it doesn't make sense to start with 2 1/2 jiggers (or 4 1/2 ounces) of bourbon. The drink would be too large for the glass it's intended for and that's a lot of bourbon for a single cocktail (though you could make two drinks at once).

Instead, pour 2 ounces of bourbon, 1/3 ounce triple sec, and 3/4 ounce of each juice and the syrup. Again, you will have approximately a 5-ounce cocktail.

Now, if you want to get technical, that triple sec pour would be 1/5 ounce and the juices and syrup 2/5 ounce each. Those are not common pours and it's difficult to be that precise, so the numbers have been rounded off to standard pours. It's also important to remember that any drink ingredient can (and should) be adjusted to your personal taste

Why Are Parts Used in Recipes?

There are a few possible reasons why someone may write a cocktail recipe in parts.

Balancing the imperial versus metric systems. Remember that not everyone uses the same measuring system. In the United States, we still use the imperial system and the rest of the world uses the metric system. By writing it in parts, the recipe becomes universal to more drinkers throughout the world. 

Customizing the size of a cocktail. Parts can also be helpful when you want to increase or decrease a drink's volume without changing the ratio of the ingredients.

For instance, if you want to transform the sea breeze into a martini, you would pour 1 part cranberry juice, 1/2 part vodka, and 3/4 part grapefruit juice. You might do this with 1 1/2 ounces cranberry juice, 3/4 ounce vodka, and just over 1 ounce of grapefruit juice. The cocktail will taste the same as it does when served in a highball glass, but now you can shake it and serve it in a cocktail glass without ice for a fancier presentation.

Mixing a punch of any size. Another common use for parts in cocktail recipes is when we're making a party punch. When a punch recipe is written in parts, you can quickly mix it up as a single drink or transform it into a party punch for any number of guests.

So, whenever you're faced with a recipe that uses "parts," remember to always begin by determining your basic measurement—your "one part"—then adjust everything from there.