Universal Measurement: The Shot Glass

Shot GlassOften considered a standard measurement, a shot glass has become an industry standard for measuring liquor. Of course, the industry is comprised of college students and other of-age mid-twenty year olds with nothing but time on their hands and an inspiration to drink.

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Okay, that’s not all exactly true. The Oxford English Dictionary first published the term shot glass in the 1940’s and none of the stories about its origin can be validated, it’s been a few years and the historical backgrounds of the shot glass have been lost in time. It is said that Italy has been using the shot glass for sipping grappa as far as 200 years ago, but it probably didn’t go under the term “shot glass.” If you dig down in history you may stumble upon a chemist by the name of Friedrich Otto Schott who co-founded a glassworks company in Jena Germany. This “Jena glass” was a small measurement glass used for chemicals but it’s said the name “Schott glass” was boiled down to the English wording, “shot” and used in reference to alcohol. Although Mr. Schott did indeed have a glassworks and had a chemical measuring glass it’s not truly written that this is how we came up with the term shot glass. Shot glasses are fairly rare around the world with the except of America where we’re all too familiar with the tiny little glass. Even in America you don’t find a huge amount of shot glasses in local bars, they serve their shots in whiskey glasses as it serves more than one single purpose. A whiskey tumbler might be the best way to generalize the concept of the shot glass, a basic method of measuring a small amount of distilled beverages. Some folks believe the shot glass was used to trade a gun cartridge in the Old West in exchanged for a “measured” glass of alcohol in a shot glass, but this hasn’t been proven to be true especially since alcohol sold for much more than a single cartridge of powder and bullets. Shot GlassesWhat is the exact measurement of a single shot glass? That question is often argued because their are a variety of different sizes, however, most of these are novelty glasses depicting cartoons, silly images, jokes or the names of the state or city the shot glass is found in at the airport. On average a shot glass will be 1.5 ounces (roughly 45ml) and a “pony” or “short” shot glass will hold 1 ounce. Don’t be deceived by the size or shape of some shot glasses, fancy glasses might look bigger or smaller but they typically hold the same amount of alcohol–even with those thick glass bottoms used to protect the glass when you slam them down. In the United States, a ‘double’ shot glass isn’t really two times the capacity of a single shot glass, oddly enough, the double shot is usually 2.0 ounces (60ml). At a bar, you may see the tender measuring with a jigger, which is an hourglass shaped device which measures 1 ounce on one side and .75 oz on the other side. In most bars I’ve visted, a bartender measures by time or eye simply pouring until it’s “enough.”

In many countries, like Ireland and the UK you’ll find shot glasses hold a bit less. A UK single-shot will hold about 25ml (about 35ml in Ireland), a significant difference from the United States 45ml glass. In Germany you’ll find a shot glass is even a bit smaller holding 20ml of alcohol–hopefully you don’t pay the same for a “shot.”

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You may like to use a fancy shot glass to sip or gulp your liquor but the size should be roughly the same all around your area. Anywhere between 1 oz. to 1.75 oz. will be your typical shot or you may order a “double.” Typically, I use shot glasses as my method of measurement when mixing drinks because I lost my jigger and a shot glass works in two ways: as a measuring device or as a container for sipping or downing a beverage.

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If you want to do some nice cold shots I suggest putting a few shot glasses in the freezer and pulling them out after they’ve frosted up nicely. Measurement or not, shot glasses are great collectors items which serve plenty of purposes, who really cares how they were invented?

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  • Reply
    The Southport Drinker
    March 8, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    A shot glass comes from the small “shooting glasses” that gents would take out when hunting before individual hip flasks became the thing. PS LOVE the blog

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  • Reply
    San Francisco Photographer
    April 23, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    A shot is equivalent to a ‘pony’ – however that came about….