Why Do People Do Shots?

Recently, The Wall Street Journal reported that "the lowbrow shot, long the mainstay of college drinking games and spring break, is being reinvented with a twist for grown-up diners." That twist is high-end, gourmet shots. The WSJ recounts a certain concoction at restaurant KYU in Miami, the "$15 'Duck Duck Juuse'—a pairing of Remy Martin 1738 cognac in a sake cup alongside a small bowl of hot smoked duck jus." Or a "bone luge shot" at an establishment in West Hollywood, in which the Portuguese wine Madeira is poured over bone marrow and chugged.

I've even come across these fashionable shots in the somewhat less-fashionable Midwest. On a recent brunch trip to Wisconsin's Water Street Brewery, for example, I found shot options such as the "Breakfast Bomb" (tequila in Bloody Mary mix, bacon garnish), or the "Pancake Shot" (Jameson, butterscotch schnapps, orange juice).

This story spurred a robust discussion at one of The Takeout's recent meetings. When alcohol is bypassing your tastebuds and shooting down your gullet at $15 a pop, what's the point? If rapid inebriation is the end goal, there's higher-proof, cheaper booze out there. Is it a status thing—like adding a $90 supplement for a 1/4 teaspoon of Ossetra caviar on your pommes puree, not because it tangibly changes the taste of the dish, but just because you can?

Removing the silliness of a $15 shot, I fail to grasp the appeal of doing shots, especially as an adult. Maybe (probably), I am uncool. Maybe (probably) because I am such a lightweight. If I'm ever brave enough to get a fancy, clear-liquor (never brown-liquor) cocktail, it's usually brightly colored and able to be sipped for at least an hour (like the Aviator, or French 75). One high-octane shot, especially one that includes two different kinds of liquor, would likely send me under the table before the appetizers arrive.

Shots in days of yore made sense—as an idiot college sophomore partying with my friends, my drink of choice was four tequila shots evenly spaced throughout the evening. But as a straight-up grownup, I only see these "adult" shots (no matter the pricepoint) as expensive and toxic—a bad combination. Tell me what I'm missing, fellow Takeout staff members and wise commenters: Why shots? [Gwen Ihnat]

Shots are fun, duh

I wouldn't say shots are my preferred method of ingesting alcohol, not by a long... hey, good one, Kate. But like frozen margaritas, pumpkin beers, and eggnog, shots have a time and a place.

Namely, that time and place is when you're out with a group of friends and letting your metaphoric hair down. I don't do shots to purposefully get drunk (anymore), but there are just social situations in which it feels right. Recently, I was back in a city where I'd lived for most of my 20s. I unexpectedly ran into an old friend at—where else?—a whiskey bar. Of course we're going to do a shot to commemorate such a fortuitous, fun coincidence.


Like toasts, they're celebratory. Your whole group is doing the same thing at the same time, with a nod to each other, and the good times ahead. I'm not really savoring the liquid so much as I'm savoring the moment it commemorates. Shots are fun in the way that skinny-dipping is fun: You're doing something ever so slightly reckless, but in the end, hopefully no one's the worse for it. [Kate Bernot]

The rituals of taking shots

I can already tell that this is going to come off totally insufferable, but I've always loved the ritual of doing shots. It's something you buy for someone else, but it's implied that when you're buying a shot, you're also buying one for yourself. Sometimes the bartender also pours one for themselves, and sometimes for the person a couple stools down, and then it's everybody all doing a shot together, and we all tap the bottoms of our glasses to the bar, then raise them in the air. We say sláinte, or skol, or cheers, or bottoms up—pick your poison—and then it's down the hatch. If you've spent any time in bars, you know this ritual. In comfort, celebration, solidarity, apology, affection, and even occasionally as the politest way to tell someone to go to hell, we do shots. What's not to love?


The actual drinking of the shots isn't the only ritual, either. Here in Chicago, newcomers get shots of Malort. (Do not let that dissuade you from moving to Chicago.) Tequila shots come with lime and salt. There are Jägerbombs and Boilermakers and flaming shots and other novelties. I am too old for most of those things, but people are likely to encounter them on or around their 21st birthdays, because shots are also a part of that ritual. Nowadays, I sometimes shoot Underberg out of the tiny little bottle to help with a stomachache (or because I've got a hangover). But mostly, it's a familiar, comfortable way to connect with somebody for a second, in a ritual that's damn near universal. They're great, in moderation. Shots for everyone! [Allison Shoemaker]