How much is a dash?

Commentor Robert Kraus writes:

How much is a dash of bitters? I always measure mine by the drop. I want my drink using bitters to taste the same as it did the last time.

This is a very good question. I usually just do a quick dash of the bitters bottle into my shaker for a single dash, which isn’t very precise, but seems to give approximately the same amount of bitters each time.

For ingredients that don’t come with that little cap with the hole in it–for example, for recipes calling for a dash of pastis or Cointreau–I measure out about an eighth of a teaspoon. Now “about an eighth” is imprecise in itself since I don’t have a one eighth measuring spoon, but I’m nearly always making two drinks at once, and I do have a one-fourth teaspoon measurer, so for those recipes, I can maintain some precision.

Some folks say one eighth of a teaspoon is too much for a dash, but it seems about right to me. I’d like to get some discussion going here, so tell me…

How much is a dash?

38 thoughts on “How much is a dash?

  1. Th Angostura 1954 “Professional Mixing Guide” says it’s 1/6th of a teaspoon, or 1/48th of an ounce. Even with a 1/4 tsp measurer, the surface tension is going to cause you to get varying amounts. Mine is really shallow, so I could probably measure up to 1/3 tsp in it. I’ve come to think of it more like salt and pepper when cooking, in that you add it to taste. For example, in an Old-Fashioned, you might want more or less depending on the strength of the flavor in the base spirit.

    The only time I’ve seen anyone (Kevin Ludwig at Park Kitchen in Portland) actually measure it was when making an Alamagoozlum, which calls for something like half a bottle (not quite that much, but a lot more than a dash).

    One of the odd things about Fee Brothers bitters is that some of the bottles come with the small hole tops and some with 1/4″ hole tops, which seems like it would make a wildly varying dash. I usually do a single hard “shake” the ones with the small holes and just quickly tip the ones with the large holes. It may be that some of their bitters are stronger than others, so a larger dash is needed, or it could just be a supply thing.

    As for pastis, I was thinking of using a small eyedropper and bottle like get for herbal extracts in at natural food stores. Seems better than my current method of trying to pour a little bit out and spilling it everywhere.

  2. Ever since I watched the first “last of the cantineros” video featuring the cuban manhattan, I’ve been measuring bitters in drops. I use 4 drops for 1 dash.

    Obviously, in any but the most formal bar setting, this isn’t going to fly.

    With stuff like Pastis, Absinthe, lemon juice, and Curacao, I tend to be less precise. Let’s face it, a dash from a open bottle (or a bottle with a speed pourer) and a dash from a bitters bottle aren’t really the same thing.

    For those ingredients, I use something around a quarter teaspoon per dash. As most recipes call for a couple dashes, I use a half a barspoon (or so) for two dashes. With lemon juice, I’ll just give a half of a lemon a bit of a squeeze over the mixing glass.

  3. Well, Mr Dietsch, I really got into something engaging and unexpected when I accidentally logged onto your web site.

    My favorite drink is a brandy old fashioned. Whenever this drink is ordered in a bar or restaurant, you can never be certain what you will get; every bartender makes it differently, and most of them are a disaster. Some guys even have to go into the backroom to get the brandy.

    Home made is best for me. I won’t reveal the recipe. My drink is relatively mild; I fear that most drinkers would pooh pooh it. But, in our family, everybody wants a brandy old fashioned made by me.

    Incidentally, I use granulated suger instead of a lump or cube, and I measure it as well.

    Thanks, Mr Dietsch, for the opportunity to exchange ideas.

    Sincerely

    Robert Kraus

  4. Great post!

    When a dash is called for I generally give a hearty single shake (if it’s something like a bitters bottle with a hole-top) or a 3 to 5 drops if the container looks like it’ll dump a good amount without careful restraint.

    As a rule, I carefully measure my ingredients, but I enjoy the ambiguity inherent in the dash. I welcome the tiny “element of chance” that keeps me from getting too clinical and obsessive with my cocktail assembly.

  5. Dr. Bamboo,

    I couldn’t agree with you more – the mystery of the dash is thought of little, but often cherished. One time you heavy hand the bitters, the next you measure with Thomas Kellerian precision – both will be good. I’m beginning to develop a shake-strength meter for cocktails … maybe my martini gets a slow methodical shake from the Fee’s Orange, but my crushed ice is doused haphazardly with Peychaud and Angostura for a Sazerac.

    At least no one has suggested weighing it yet :)

  6. A dash is one sixth of a teaspoon. There are little novelty spoons in dash and pinch measures. One sixth of a teaspoon is about 6 drops which does fill a dash measuring spoon. After much experimentation my own experience suggests that overestimating a dash is worse than underestimating particularly with gin based drinks which don’t counter the bitters as much as bourbon or rye do. The truly peculiar is why pastis comes in 750 ml bottles when most recipes call for a drop.

  7. I generally just use a shake from the bitters bottle for a dash, rather than precisely measuring it.

    The last time I emptied a bitters bottle, I soaked off the label, thouroughly washed it out, and then refilled it with pastis. Note that the little plastic gizmo in the Peychaud’s bottle can be popped off fairly easily.

  8. I had the pleasure of meeting the fine folks from the Angostura company at the Vegas Bar and Restaurant Show this year, and they gave me the most interesting piece of trivia (I can’t imagine why they told me this): A few years ago, they enlarged the hole in the top of the bottle, and their sales went up something like 30%.

    So, evidently, a dash of bitters is much more than it used to be, at least where your bottle of Angostura is concerned.

  9. All the research I have found says a dash is between 1/6 and 1/4 teaspoon. I decided to settle on 1/4 teaspoon since it is easier to measure and I like bitters. Of course since bitters vary in strength from brand to brand and even batch to batch this adds some inconsistency to things. I set out last night to try and get a brand approximation on a drop by drop basis as I was mixing drinks. Sadly this morning my notes are illegible. The one thing I can piece together from the scribble on my pad is that Stirrings blood orange bitters require double the amount of any other brand for the same bittering level.

    I guess next time I do bittering levels research I will do test batches with water, not cocktails. Excuse me while I find some aspirin.

    http://www.DrinkingThe World.com

    1. Thank you!! I’ve recenlty fallen in love with the Blood Orange Manhattan, and I really like an extravagant amount of the blood orange bitters – a 1/6 – 1/4 tsp dash just doesn’t give me the flavor I love. Is there such a measure as a “splursh”?

  10. I’ve seen a dash measurement defined as 4-5 drops.
    This seems to fit with the dispensing method.
    To me 1 drop is not enough (unless you’re just aquiring a taste for bitters) But 4-5 tastes just right to the mature sipper.
    As it spills out of the bitters bottle, cont the drops.

  11. I agree with Mark. I just read a handout from the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Commission that says a dash is 1/6 teaspoon, so that’s pretty precise definition. The problem is how to measure it – I have measuring spoons as small as i/8, but no 1/6 spoon. I see several “dash” size spoons for sale, but the sellers don’t offer any specific amount of what that means. Bitters in particular, though, too little is far better than too much.

    1. I was enjoying the replies until I got to yours which totally baffled me. I’m gonna go with you were just kidding around with a cliche. Because, despite that bitters are horrifically expensive (relative to the alcohol to which they are added), they just ain’t that pricey..but more than whatever a dash really is makes the alcohol taste AWFUL

      1. I found the replies pretty pedestrian and boring, until I got to this one ^^. I guess a sense of humour is not something that we all possess in equal measure.

  12. Being an old curmudgeon I almost lost faith in the younger generation reading the exchange on How much is a dash. Where is your daring? Where is your dash? Through away your measuring spoons – one flick of the wrist will do the trick and don’t tell me you can taste the difference if you got three or five drops in your drink. Measuring spoons indeed!
    Hannes Oljelund

  13. Hannes,

    I think your old eyes led you to miss the part where I said, “For ingredients that don’t come with that little cap with the hole in it–for example, for recipes calling for a dash of pastis or Cointreau…”.

    One flick of the wrist could “dash” in up to a full ounce of those! That’s a hell of a lot more than three or five drops, curmudgeon.

    I now keep dasher bottles on hand for ingredients like absinthe that are often called for by the dash, but I hadn’t amassed enough of them when I wrote this post. Surely you would admit that an ounce of absinthe, when only five drops are needed, would ruin certain drinks.

    Grump less and pay attention more, next time. Thanks.

  14. Greetings from frosty Minnesota…
    I’m pondering the “dash” concept tonight, having had tangerines left over from grating their rinds into biscotti, and recalling some cocktail recipes in some books on my shelf… didn’t care to peruse all of the UKBG or Savoy, but just Googled gin & tangerine, and came up with the Luigi Cocktail. The inclusion of grenadine appealed, as I have Routin 1883′s fantastic Grenade syrup, which adds sublimity to any grenadine recipe… here’s how it looked in metric vsn:

    LUIGI
    20 ml fresh tangerine juice (3/4 oz)
    
30 ml gin
 (1 oz)
    15 ml dry vermouth (1/2 oz)
    
7 ml Cointreau
 (1/4 oz)
    7 ml grenadine 
(1/4 oz)

    … with my US measurements a bit generalized, of course. Very fruity and sweet, and my husband predictably adored it. I wondered, though…

    And now that I’ve been plodding through Savoy, I’ve found this on p 98:

    LUIGI

    1 tsp grenadine
    1 dash Cointreau
    The juice of 1/2 tangerine
    1/2 dry gin
    1/2 French vermouth

    QUITE a different cocktail!

    So… the definition of a “dash” becomes more curious when juxtaposed with a teaspoon, and I have a hard time imaging it as 1/16th of a tsp! I think that’s approaching a single drop, and while I don’t object on principle to the idea of an almost imaginary quantity of Cointreau, I do find it hard to believe that Harry Craddock would have bothered with something so undetectable. I like a quarter teaspoon.

    At any rate, this cocktail looks worthy of some “dashed” experimentation.

  15. I highly enjoy Rye, and of recent am trying to determine the best ratio’s for a good Manhattan, which I know varies by taste. I find the Rye out of the High West distillery in Park City, Utah quite good. But am having troubles determining the proper amount of a dash. Particularly when using a sweet Vermouth, as one affects the other. Any thoughts would be appreciated. . .

  16. TR,
    I highly enjoy a good Manhattan. The classic ratio is 2 parts Rye to 1 part sweet vermouth. I use Sazerac Rye exclusively for my Manhattans, but experiment
    with different brands of Vermouth. Dolin sweet works quite nicely. Vya is also quite delicious here. And 3 dashes of angostura bitters seems about right to me. Garnish with a decent cherry and a touch of the juice if you like things on the sweet side. I use morello cherries that I get from a Ukranian deli on 2nd ave in NYC. The neon red monstrosities they sell in the supermarkets are of course to be avoided.

  17. My thinking is that, historically, bartenders were too busy to spend much time on measuring, and probably did one shake of a bitters bottle. But, if I knew the answer I wouldn’t be here looking. Best bet, step-wise refinement through experimentation.

  18. So we are trying to rationalize that a quick shake of a bottle equates to 1/4 tsp OR that we should actually be measuring out bitters (with stirrings weak blood orange bitters I would agree). . . I like the shot glasses that have the graduated measure on the side. I would estimate 1/2 of the 1/4 tsp line — start on the low end for every new drink and take good notes as the experiment unfolds. Therein lies the fun.

  19. Dashing bitters is all very well, but what about recipes that call for a dash of something in a bottle that doesn’t have a tiny hole? I want to build a drink called Arsenic & Old Lace and it demands a dash of both French Vermouth and Creme de Violet. I think we need precise (or relatively precise) measures so that, as one experiments and adjusts a cocktail to get it to one’s particular liking, one can then reproduce the results in future.

    1. I specifically address that: I use about 1/8th teaspoon.

      Another solution is to use an empty dasher bottle; once you’ve polished off your Angostura or something, wash it well and reuse it for your vermouth or whatnot.

  20. LOVE this blog post and comments thread.

    I recently developed a taste for manhattans and just went out to buy all of the ingredients to make them at home. Googled “How much is a dash?” and voila! 15 minutes of entertainment and a confirmation of my original idea to just flick the Ango bottle into the shaker. (And also the useful tip to wash and reuse said Ango bottle once it’s empty.)

    Thank you. You’re helping people.

  21. What has shocked me isn’t that there’s no consensus on what a dash is, but that there’s been no discussion about how to be consistent about dashing. Because of the great elasticity of air over liquids, a full bottle of bitters shoots out a drastically smaller amount of bitters in a dash than an almost empty bottle. I just tested this theory. The almost empty bottle of Peychaud’s dash equaled 1/8 oz. the fuller bottle yielded a slightly smaller but noticeable perhaps as small as 1/16. This effect is also effected by the size of the bottle. Anyone who makes a lot of cocktails quickly realizes that it’s most cost effective to buy the larger bottle of Angostura. The large bottle even when only a quarter of the bottle is used up shoots out a dash equalling close to half a teaspoon. So the variance is quite large.

    Developing a technique or finding a device that can keep the dash consistent is the real goal. Then it’s easy enough to measure it once for reference. I wonder if perhaps the insanely expensive Japanese bitters bottles yield a more consistent result.

    Perhaps I should just get over it and accept that idea that using bitters is an inexact science/art and that our carefully crafted recipes are subject to the whimsey and caprice of Dionysos.

  22. Dashing through the snow… couldn’t resist this Christmas Eve. Off to make a cocktail that calls for a dash. Wondered what it was, came across this excellent post and comments. Merry Christmas all.

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