Shot glasses for the Masses


Two scowling outlaws lift their whiskey-filled shot glasses while staring each other down in a dusty saloon. Silent patrons watch as the gunslingers flick the liquor from the glasses into their mouths while still looking eye to eye.

After slamming the glasses back down on the bar, they both move their hands slowly to their sides where they both rest their fingers on the holsters. “How ‘bout we take this outside, pardner,” one of them says.

According to gunslinging procedures, generally, outlaws consume shots and then fire them during a gunfight — at least in Wild West movies.


Or in another movie scene, we’ve got cocky, pre-kooky Tom Cruise igniting shot glasses brimming with neon liquor before he slides them down the bar to amply endowed female customers who gush over his bartending bravado. And, as always, the camera zooms in for a shot of the shots.

What would these classic movie scenes be without the shot glasses? The “Hangover” would have been just another average day if Stu, Alan, Phil and Doug hadn’t clinked and downed their roofie spiked shot glasses of Jagermeister.


It’s not just Hollywood that touts the shot glass. These receptacles have been practical and popular in mainstream society for decades. They are collected as souvenirs by travelers and cradled by inebriated college kids around the country.

Although versions of the shot glass have existed for a few centuries, the modern day glass was created to measure alcohol in bars after Prohibition. But other stories about the shot glass’s legacy exist throughout American history.

© JuMiNi

© JuMiNi

In the 1700’s, small glasses called “whiskey tumblers” were popular although the tumblers were a bit bigger than today’s standard shot glasses, which are on average 2 inches in height (brewplus).


Happy hour for ditch diggers in the 1800’s consisted of taking a break from canal digging and having a small  “jigger” of alcohol. (Wikipedia)

Another term commonly used for a shot is “shooter” although technically they aren’t the same thing. A shooter, like a “kamikaze,” combines alcohol along with a mixer, but a shot is straight liquor ( Because of the combination of liquor and mixer, a shooter glass is typically a bit taller (up to half an inch) than an average shot glass.


One theory actually connects the term “shot” with the name of German chemist and glassmaker Friedrich Otto Schott who developed new and innovative glassware during the late 1800’s. (Wikipedia) The idea is that drinkers Americanized “Schott glas” into “shot glass.”

However, many US historians agree the term “shot glass” first officially appeared in a New York Times article in the 1940’s. NYC was trying to decide on a standard regulation measurement for alcohol served in bars and restaurants (brewplus). Since this was after Prohibition, perhaps eating and drinking establishments didn’t want to push their luck with legalities.


One letdown in historic drinking lore is that shot glasses probably did not line the shelves of Wild West saloons (brewplus) In a common Wild West whopper, apparently, the going rate for a shot of whiskey was a cartridge, which encases a bullet and gunpowder. So thirsty cowboys and outlaws gladly swapped bullets for booze. Looking closer into the history of the time, however, puts the kibosh on this story.

According to “A Brief History of Shot Glasses,” shot glasses would have been very expensive for a saloon to buy — especially if they were often destroyed in target practice or bar brawls as, again, we’re led to believe from Wild West movies. Also alcohol was pricey itself. So, a cartridge would not be worth the liquor tradeoff for a saloon owner.

shot glasses

Today, shot glasses have become collectors’ items whether they are tacky kitschy ones from Las Vegas that cost $3-7, pre-Prohibition etched shot glasses priced at  $100 or select ones from Tiffany, which can run at about $600-800 dollars (Beck)

The Koozie

One alcohol accessory or collectible that has always been cheap is the koozie.

Koozies (beer huggies, cozies, coosies, coldy holdies, stubby holders) began appearing in the 1980s at tailgating parties, rafting trips and campsites across the country.

vegas koozies

The Koozie, was designed to keep beer cool — especially in the sun. Using a koozie keeps a beer up to 50 percent cooler (Wikipedia))  However, koozies also promote businesses. It didn’t take long after the koozie was introduced for direct marketing companies to customize them for any event or business. Many people collect koozies, which are typically made out of neoprene but can also be found in polyester and standard foam and EVA foam models.

While the modern koozie is definitely a product of the 1980’s, it has a 1921 relative — a version that inventors David and Russell Duncan created to insulate portable gas generators. (Tillett)

jug shot glasses at store



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