Liquor Pourer: Understanding How It Works + Maintenance Tips

Liquor Pourer: Understanding How It Works + Maintenance Tips

Liquor Pourer: Understanding How It Works + Maintenance Tips

Bartenders work like they have multiple hands to serve customers on time. Skill contributes to their efficiency as well as tools like liquor pourers. It would be a mess in the bar without them as the business will most likely lose profit and time. The spout looks simple, but its very design and mechanism make it highly functional in a busy environment.

Anatomy of a Liquor Pourer

To better understand how liquor pourers work, let’s get to know the parts first, shall we? There are two kinds of spout pourers based on their method of measuring: manual and automatic.  

Standard Liquor Pourer

The most commonly used liquor pourer in any bar is the standard metal spout because it dispenses the liquor consistently. Suitable for practice and accuracy of the measurement, it is used in the free pour technique.

  • Spout - Long, narrow, and made of stainless steel, this is where the liquor goes through before reaching the glass or the jigger. It is slightly tapered, so it will point the vessel better without producing spills.
  • Air return hole - Basically, a small tube that goes through the seal and peeps at the base of the spout. This plays a huge part in preventing leakage and maintaining air circulation inside and outside the bottle. If this hole is blocked, the flow of the liquor becomes slower.
  • Seal - Made of silicone or rubber, it can firmly attach to the opening of the bottle. It must create a firm seal; otherwise, the liquor can leak, or worse, the entire pourer can fall out during use.
Standard Liquor Pourer

Measured Liquor Pourer

The measured liquor pourer was invented to help bartenders keep accurate track of their measurements and reserve their focus to do other things. Unlike the free pour, wherein the bartender has to do the counting, this type of spout does the job for you.

  • Plastic Pourer / Spout - Made from environment-friendly plastic and is often designed at an angle for precision purposes. The circumference of the opening may be slightly bigger than the standard pourer, but this doesn’t matter since it is designed to give an exact measurement of alcohol.
  • Collar - This ensures that there will be no leaks when the pourer is used. Like a standard pourer, this is simply inserted into the bottle to create the seal.
  • Seal - Works with the collar to connect the into the bottle. This allows the pourer to fit in most bottles. It also surrounds the valve where the ball bearings are contained.
  • Ball Bearings - The main part of the measured pourer is the ball bearings, which can be two or three in number and are made of steel. They allow liquor to pass through the spout and afterward blocks the passage after the measurement is completed. 
Measured Liquor Pourer

The Mechanism Behind Spout Pourers

You’ll be surprised to know that during the few seconds that a liquor pourer is used, there is an interesting process involved. Here’s how they work:

Standard Liquor Pourer

There are two tubes in a liquor pourer, the primary spout and the air hole or air intake. The spout is the passage for the liquid to exit the bottle, while the air intake is the passage for the air to get inside the bottle.

For the liquid-air exchange to occur, the bottle must be positioned upside down, letting the liquor flow through the spout and out into the glass. As this happens, air goes through the air intake, forming bubbles or the glugging effect. In essence, the contents of the bottle are being replaced with air. 

The air intake is beneficial in creating a consistent and smooth flow. If a bartender covers this hole, the stream of the liquor will be at a slower rate since air can’t enter the intake, so the exchange does not take place. 

Is it possible for the liquid and air to go through the opposite holes, such that liquid passes through the intake and air passes through the main spout? No, because the liquid’s surface tension denies it from passing through the air intake due to its smaller diameter. It will always go through the main spout which has a larger opening, leaving the air to pass through the narrower tube. Try covering the main spout instead of the air hole; you’ll notice that the liquid will not come out of the air intake.

Standard Liquor Pourer

Measured Liquor Pourer

Usually, there are two ball bearings located in a plastic tube of a measured liquor pourer. These steel balls act as valves that control the flow and the cut of the liquor.

Upon inserting the pourer in the bottle, the spout is covered with a piece of cloth; then, it is titled once. This is called priming, which sets the top ball to slide well and to prevent it from sticking. This also lets a bit of the liquor stay at the spout that acts as a blockage from fruit flies and dust to get in. 

When the bottle is turned upside down, the liquid-air exchange still takes place as liquor passes through the spout. The balls stay in place until the pre-calibrated pour gets cut off, with the top ball rolling out to the nozzle to block more liquor from flowing out. To reset the pour, the bottle must be positioned upright to get the top ball in its resting place again, and the process is repeated.

Measured Liquor Pourer

How to Remove a Liquor Pourer

Liquor bottles come in various sizes. Some fit the liquor spout perfectly; thus, removing it is easy as well. Just give it a grip, then work it back and forth until it loosens up. 

Some bottles have a smaller mouth. While the rubber seal of the spout allows it to fit when inserted, the seal would be very tight making it difficult to remove. You have the option to leave the liquor pourers on temporarily, but every once in a while, they must be removed for cleaning.

When the spout is buried deep within, the metal part may detach from the rubber seal; this is normal. Once the metal spout is removed, just squeeze the rubber seal out and put it back together. You can also use a towel if your hands get slippery or sticky from the liquor.

If removing the spouts by hand risks breaking them, you can use a V-rod bottle opener. Slide the rubber seal of the spout by the opening of the opener and make sure it’s tight. Wiggle it up and down until the spout loosens, then yank it.

How to Clean Liquor Pourers

Liquor pourers usually come with a long brush that is used to clean the inside of the spout. But, this can be time-consuming, especially when there are many spouts used in a bar. Here is a more efficient way to clean them. 

  1. Soak the pourers in soapy water for 10-15 minutes. 
  2. Rinse them thoroughly with cold water.
  3. Dry them with a towel to avoid rusting. Plastic pourers can be left to air dry. 

How to Clean Liquor Pourers

To make your liquor pourers last longer, follow these useful cleaning tips: 

  • Soda water doesn’t work. It is a common practice to soak the spouts in soda water because it tends to remove the stickiness. However, soda water doesn’t have any antibacterial properties, so it’ll just be a waste if the pourers are not cleaned. To save time, resources, and effort, it’s better to use a soap and water solution. 
  • Disinfectants are too strong. Bleach may quickly destroy the metal, especially for small and thin spout pourers. Other abrasive chemical cleaners also have a lingering smell that may affect the liquor when they come in contact.  
  • Beware of the dishwasher. Using the dishwasher may be tempting, but the pourers can’t withstand the temperature and the cycle because of their tiny size. The rubber seals may also tear off, and the insides of the spouts may not be thoroughly rinsed. 
  • Hot water may ruin the metal. To prevent rusting, use warm or cold water when rinsing. Hot water may also be bad for the rubber seal because it can affect its tightness.
  • Separate parts to clean thoroughly. If you are meticulous, you can detach the metal spouts from the rubber seals and clean each part separately. It is laborious, but it ensures that even the insides of the rubber seals are cleaned. 
  • Maintain cleanliness at least once a week. You have the option to clean your spouts daily or not. If you choose the latter, we suggest cleaning them once every week. Until it is time to clean, you can place covers on the spouts to make sure that bugs and dust won’t get in the bottles. 


Bar accessories like liquor pourers are becoming more and more technologically advanced. That’s why it’s important to know how this bar tool works, no matter how simple the process is, so you’ll be able to use and clean it properly. If you found this article helpful, share it or let us know what you think in the comment section.



  • I can’t seem to find the answer to this question. If I use a liquor pourer with a cap, won’t I still have exposure of air to the bottle through the small uncovered air intake hole? I met a bartender that told me that air will not enter through the air intake without liquor going out. I get that. But will alcohol escape through that small hole even with the main pourer hole covered with a cap?


    Jeffrey Alan Stacey

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