The History of Taking Shots

The History of Taking Shots

The History of Taking Shots

If you have ever been in a bar or party setting, you are familiar with the long-standing tradition of taking “shots.” Have you ever wondered where that term comes from – shots? The historical accuracy of the history of taking shots is unclear, much like your recollection of the night before after a round (or two or five) of shots with your friends. While there is no definitive answer to the origin and history of taking shots, there are plenty of theories that people have clung tightly to over the years.

The Definition of a Shot Versus a Shooter 

Traditionally speaking, the action of taking a shot requires a small 2-ounce glass (the actual capacity of the glass can vary) holding approximately 1-1.5 ounces of straight liquor – whiskey, bourbon, tequila, vodka, etc. Once the toast has been given, everyone participating in shots will then “throw it back,” taking in all the alcohol at one time. Shots are not something to sip like a cocktail, nor do you nurse it like you would a beer.

The idea behind the shot is much like medicinal shots, get the liquid into the bloodstream for maximum potency. Of course, you aren’t taking the alcoholic shot in the arm; instead, you are ingesting it. Unlike mixed drinks and cocktails, the amount of liquor in a shot hits hard and fast. That is why you will hear that “back in the day,” whiskey and bourbon were used for medicinal purposes – often in shot form. One shot and the pain would subside, colds would diminish, and minor procedures could be performed.

Shooters, on the other hand, are like a shot but also like a cocktail – only miniature. These were made popular during the 1970s and 1980s. You have likely encountered these; they have names like Kamikaze, Purple Hooter Shooter, etc. While shooters can be just as potent, they are often confused with the shot that has been around for centuries.

Murky Origin Stories

Although there is speculation about the origin of the shot, most are only stories and memes created over the years to solve the conundrum. It is not immediately clear where the history of taking shots originates, but it is fun to investigate the possibilities.

The Wild West

In the days when cowboys rode horses to the saloon, it was originally hypothesized that shots originated here. During these days, the .45 gauge cartridge for a six-shooter gun cost approximately 12 cents. Coincidentally, the price for a shot of whiskey was also 12 cents. If the saloon patron did not have the 12 cents to pay for a shot of whiskey, storytellers talk of these men exchanging a “shot” for a shot. While it is possible that bartering such as this took place, researchers have debunked this myth.

Two researchers, Kim LaCapria and David Emery, from Snopes, discovered that the earliest reference to shots could be found in the autobiography of Reverand Oliver Heywood, who lived from 1630 to 1702. Unfortunately, this reference debunked the origin story because the Wild West stories date to the mid-1800s.

Friedrich Otto Schott

The other theory that gets passed around is that of a German glassmaker named Friedrich Otto Schott, who made shot glasses in America. The reality – Schott was more famous for his scientific findings and glass compositions. He is credited for creating the borosilicate glass, which has a high heat tolerance and a resistance to thermal shock. You will find this glass used in many different scientific and medical supplies.

Celebration Shots Around the World

The United States is not the only country to take shots, especially when celebrating special occasions. Shots, in general, are seen as a ritual – a part of drinking culture that celebrates, commemorates, and pays homage to traditions.


Much like the tradition of a “shot of whiskey” in the US, the Netherlands has its own specialty – Genever. Genever is referenced as the “grandfather of gin” and is the country’s national drink. Although made with juniper berries, Genever has a slight whiskey taste and is served chilled in a fluted shot glass with a small glass of beer accompanying it. Traditionally, people drinking Genever will drink it by bending at the waist with their hands behind their backs to take the first sip, which is then followed by a sip of beer.


Viva Tequilla! In Mexico, the liquor of choice is tequila, which in the UK and US is considered a “slammer.” You have seen it in the movies (and probably in real life); someone who takes a shot of tequila will first lick some salt, “slam” the tequila shot and then bite a lime. To drink a tequila shot – tradition should be followed for the maximum experience. Coincidentally, the Czech Republic is also known for fancying tequila. The country swaps the salt for cinnamon and the lime for an orange.

Changing the Future of Shots

What if there was a way to make shots portable and user-friendly? TakeShots has taken “shots” to a new level with our patent-pending product – the Take. The Take is the world’s first fillable, portable shot straw, with more uses than just holding alcohol. The capacity of the straw is one-ounce, and it is eco-friendly, dishwasher safe, and made from durable food-grade Tritan plastic. We also have other products on the way! The Chase is an insulated chaser bottle that can accommodate the Take as a straw. The Chase is made from stainless steel and will keep drinks cold for 12 hours. The Case was created as a way for consumers to carry multiple Takes for travel purposes. The design is sleek, dishwasher safe and great to throw in a backpack or cooler.

Why TakeShots? TakeShots was founded on the principle that you need to take shots in life – whether you do this to get ahead by following your dreams or just to have fun with your friends. Sometimes, when you find yourself facing the loss of everything you once knew, it takes one shot – a chance at some new venture or dream to turn things around. That is the philosophy behind Take Shots, a new way to enjoy the shot, both literally and figuratively.

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