Top Bartender Morgan Weber’s Current Obsession: The Napier Stepped Jigger
Morgan Weber found this 1930s vintage bar tool on eBay years ago and now uses it in all of his seven Texas bars and restaurants
There are two types of barware collectors out there: those that stash each precious item in a display case and those that actually use the vintage spoons, shakers, strainers and jiggers they find.
Morgan Weber, co-owner and beverage director of Houston’s Agricole Hospitality group, which runs seven bars and restaurants, is definitely a member of the latter camp. While he’s amassed quite a collection of bar tools over the past decade, there’s one item that he’s become obsessed with.
“I’ve gone down a pretty deep hole over the last few years with vintage barware—specifically a little stepped jigger that was made in the 1930s by Napier,” says Weber. “It’s this beautiful cross section of function and style that I think people are hungry for now but we sometimes miss.”
An American silversmith company founded in the late 19th century, Napier was perhaps most well-known for its costume jewelry creations. But Weber notes that the company also managed to carve out a lasting niche for itself in home barware by making everything from sterling silver flasks to what could be the original all-in-one bar tool, complete with spoon, jigger and bottle opener. It also made an iconic cocktail shaker in the shape of a penguin, which was later reproduced by Restoration Hardware.
The stepped jigger first captured Morgan’s eye during one of his routine eBay searches for “vintage barware.” Napier’s jigger designs are often quite cheeky—one is adorned with a demon and an angel, another takes shape of a cat when turned upside down—but this one was much more unassuming.
The company produced several versions of the jigger, including one with silver plating and another that’s 100-percent sterling silver. All of them have four tiers, which are divided by half-ounce measurements, and a little handle on the side.
Intrigued, he bought it. Upon its arrival, Weber liked it so much that he wanted to track down more of them.
“I really love the stairsteps—it gets wider as it goes up and it’s really easy to tell when you’re right in between for quarter ounces,” says Weber. “If you’re getting slammed in the bar and you have this smooth conical shaped jigger, you might think you’re at a quarter ounce, but there’s a pretty decent variance in either direction in my opinion.”
But, he warns, “if you’re really into the wrist twisty, showy drink building, this is not your jigger.”
Since purchasing that first Napier stepped jigger, Weber has managed to track down a collection of about 20 of the silver-plated versions. They are, of course, put to work every day at some of Agricole Hospitality’s bars.
Fortunately, he’s found a new source for the jiggers. “Last year, Cocktail Kingdom released a reproduction of the jigger, which I was kind of excited about because we use them all over our company,” says Weber. “Until that point I was having to hunt them down on eBay, junk shops and antique stores.”
The Cocktail Kingdom version is available in copper, gold, gunmetal black and stainless steel for between $30 and $37 each—a fair amount less than the $70 to $100 Weber typically spends on the vintage Napier jiggers.
In 2017, Standard Spoon also released a version of the stepped jigger after receiving more than triple its Kickstarter campaign goal of $15,000. It’s available in ounces or milliliters for a mere $12.
There is, however, one Napier stepped jigger that Morgan found a few years ago that is more of a showpiece than a workhorse—and it’s reserved for his home bar.
“I was able to find an actual pure sterling one a few years ago,” says Weber. “It doesn’t leave my house.”