Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | March 2, 2009

Metric Bartending

In his column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Gary Regan pens an open letter to President Barack Obama, calling on him to move the United States towards the metric system. Naturally there’s a strong tie-in for bartending and cocktails in Regan’s letter:

There’s one more reason that I’m urging you to work on this issue, Mister President, and it involves cocktails. As I’m sure you know, the cocktail was invented in America, and American bartenders have always been regarded as being the very best in the world, but the sad fact is that we’re beginning to lose ground. Bartenders in London, Paris, Sydney, Hong Kong, Bratislava, Moscow and Rome simply don’t understand our recipes, you see. Ounces mean nothing to them.

If you act now, though, the bartenders of America will be quick to order their metric jiggers, and American cocktails will be once again be served at the best bars in the world. You just watch us, sir. We’ll jump right in there, and before you know it the rest of the world will once again marvel at the creativity of the men and women who work behind the bars of America.

I’ll be honest and say that Regan has a far better sense of how big a problem this is. Frankly it had never occured to me but as soon as Regan explains it, it makes perfect sense. How are American cocktail creations optimized for export when we are on a different system of measurement from the rest of the world?

I’m not sure what I really think about the idea of rethinking all of my drink knowledge into millileters. It would, however, require a lot of cocktail books (well, all American ones) to be reprinted with metric measurements. I’d be very curious to hear what other cocktail masters and bartenders think about a move to the metric system.



  1. Regan is ENGLISH and of course he want us to change. He also wants us to be cocktailians and has also said in writing that European are better than american bartenders.

    Gary is full of himself. Have you ever seen a photo of him?

    He wants to be called a cocktailian but wants to get a BARTENDER Data Base.

    Regan is full of it. He changes his mind like a good bartender changes his bar rag.

    He wrote for me and I let him go. ASK HIM WHY? Ray Foley, a BARTENDER and a PROUD AMERICAN. Let ecveryone else change to our system.

  2. God, what an idiot ray is.

    “Have you seen a photo of him? THAT COMMUNIST? Never mind what great points he is making, he’s not even American, and thus NOT EVEN A PERSON.”

    Never mind the rest of the world finds us laughable, never mind that when you leave america all your cooking/drink preparation knowledge becomes utterly useless. Never mind that all science is built on the metric system, and so anyone even remotely educated ought to be familiar with it (a category which obviously excludes ray). Nooo.. we should stick to preposterous British systems that even the Brits have given up on, systems which most Americans are no more familiar with than the metric system.

    It is simple ignorance that stands in the way of progress. Everyone is so afraid of it, but, pray tell: what is so complicated about 0.5 oz becoming 15 ml? Which itself can be converted into any other unit by a simple factor of ten? Nothing.

    Bravo for Regan’s proposal, it’s high time.

  3. It, of course, goes way beyond bartending, have you ever thought about that every blue collar working that uses hand tools must purchase two completely different set of tools in order to work anywhere in America. And companies must keep in inventory/stock two sets of hardware and tools in order to fix or make products in the USA. Now, how is that cost competitive with any country that only has and needs one set of tools and hardware? PLUS, these same countries have cheaper labor then the USA. The USA better shape up quick.

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