The shot glass, defined by wikipedia as “A shot glass is a small glass designed to hold or measure spirits or liquor,” but what in today’s world many shot glasses do not work as “measures” anymore. The traditional shot glass is just one of many styles and designs that continue to get more complex and crazy. Many people have taken to collecting shot glasses of all shapes and sizes from excessively tall (almost collins glass size) to extremely tiny. Let’s take some time to explore the size, style and functionality of a shot glass.
Functionality is where the “rubber meets the road” in shot glass culture and there are typically three uses of a shot glass. First, one can use them as a piece of artwork that sits on a shelf and collects dust. We used to own an 85 shot glass collection with shot glasses across every State in the US we visited with pictures, writing and decorations along the perimeter but the glasses mainly sat on the shelf as more of a viewing piece. You can call it the ghetto Hummel if you will. Why did we stop? Because the sheer amount of time it took to dust off each of the glasses and the shelf they sat on just became too time consuming!
Secondly, the shot glass can function as a cordial glass, for sipping sweet (and often high proof) liqueurs. Many cordial glass shots are crafted for both sleek designs with a flared lip and/or tall stem. Besides cordial one can also sip whiskey or hard alcohol from a shot glass, or as some seem to do, just “shoot” the hard alcohol down the throat without really tasting it–mimicking that of an old western and can be excessively popular in College towns across the US and abroad. The problem with appreciating a core spirit from a shot glass, however, is that the mouth of the shot glass does not give justification to some of the complex aroma’s of the spirit, which is why I suggest more of a brandy snifter for such activities over that of a shot glass.
The third used function of the shot glass is to measure liquids for cocktail recipes. This is where life gets a bit tricky because not all shot glasses are created equal. Besides sizes and shapes, the total capacity of a shot glass can vary widely not be of equal proportions. A great example, a cordial glass may be 1.75 ounces in capacity which doesn’t make for an easy measuring glass–imagine if you could only measure “cups” for your home cooking in 1.75 cup increments. How would you do a “half-cup”? This style of measure would make for some very interesting cakes, meat loafs and rice recipes no doubt.
The implied “industry standard” shot glass size for the United States is somewhere between 1-ounce and 1.5-ounces with many bars probably leaning more on the 1-ounce value. First, that allows for cost savings across shot orders and it enables you to closely measure a person’s intake (as serving someone that’s already had too many isn’t a desired objective.) This also helps define the “double shot” as a 2-ounce measure over becoming a 3-ounce measure with a 1.5-ounce standard size. A 3-ounce shot glass isn’t a common size so bars will have to serve double shots in a rocks glass (I’ve seen it done) and it looks like much less of an order when you have a thin layer of liquid in a rocks glass.
I’m not a fan of measuring my cocktails with shot glasses due to the irregularity of the glass when pouring into a mixing glass and the inability to understand the capacity of the glass. Some do have white lines to denote glass capacity like the Modern Shot Glass with a 1-ounce white line to give you a clear measure. Still, I would prefer a jigger or OXO glass to a shot glass for a measure. I notice some of our fans use shot glasses to measure because it’s probably very convenient (since they have the glasses anyway) and many will submit recipes in “shot” sizes, e.g. 1 shot vodka, 1 shot vermouth, 1/2 shot grenadine. As long as the ratios are right, at least the drink will taste the same…but in one recipe it may need a rocks glass while in another it may need a highball glass depending mostly on the capacity of the shot glass you used to measure.
By talking about measure we’ve closely covered some of our size concerns with a shot glass. Thankfully, in general, most shot glasses fall under 3-ounces in total capacity. It is still important to understand its total capacity by measuring it out with a real measuring tool as the physical size of a shot glass does not always call out its total capacity. Size can be deceiving, some glasses are very heavy with thick bottoms and edging to protect them when being “slammed down” by its consumer and the overall glass structure is much larger than its full capacity. In Europe you may size shot glasses looking about the same size as a US shot glass but containing 20-25ml shot capacity (that’s .67-.84 ounces!) Every country may standardize on a different capacity due to laws, regulations and serving limitations (or the sheer fact that alcohol costs more in many countries due to taxing and such.)
Lastly, people focus on the style of the glassware. Honestly, why else would one need to buy all the shapes and sizes that exist in shot glass design if it weren’t for the great selection?! What would make the Hour Glass shot any different from a Limoncello Cordial or Leaning Shot glass when you had to choose which to buy? Aside from capacity you’re looking to make an impression and perhaps excite your guests with something just totally original looking. Your glass design echoes the reflection of your personality (or should!) so you want something that you would drink out of when doing “shooters” (the process of making shot-based cocktails and pousse café layered shots.)
What’s my style? It is a constantly changing ever-flowing personality update! Today, I’m excited about the Leaning Shot glasses because they just take what you think is a standard look and feel and just skew it a bit differently, making it a bit more unique. I would like to think of myself as a bit more unique and my glassware reflects my attitude.