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A shot glass is a small glass designed to hold or measure spirits or liquor, which is either drunk straight from the glass ("a shot") or poured into a cocktail. A "shot" of liquor is not the same as a "shooter".
The Oxford English Dictionary's first citation for the term "shot glass" is in The New York Times during the 1940s, but several examples exist from the 1930s. However, although it was used by some, the term apparently did not come into common usage until much later.
Many references from the 1800s describe giving a jigger of whiskey or rum to workers who were digging canals. Most shot glasses are found in the United States, but shot glasses from before the 1940s are very rare.
Before Prohibition in the U.S. in the early to mid 1900s, thin-sided whiskey glasses were common. After Prohibition, these were replaced by shot glasses with a thick base and thick sides.
Because the word shot also means "dose" or "small amount", it may simply be that these small glasses are called shot glasses because they hold small, powerful amounts. However, there are a range of more-complex stories about the origin of the style of glass, and its name. Few of them stand up to much scrutiny – either they place the origin decades before the term appeared in print, or they describe an item that had nothing to do with drinking liquor:
A popular origin story is that the shot glass originated in the Western saloons of the American Old West. The story explains that the cowboys of the Old West would trade a cartridge (bullet plus powder and primer encased in brass) for a small amount of alcohol.
Another origin story is that a shot glass was a glass used at the dinner table for diners to place any lead shot they found left during the meal.
Another story ties the origin of the shot glass to the use of quill pens. According to this story, the term shot glass was coined over 100 years ago, describing a small, thick-walled glass placed on a writing desk, and filled with small lead shot. A feather writing quill would be placed in the glass when not in use, and the lead shot would hold the quill upright. An upright quill was more easily removed from the glass.
Certain fraternal organizations such as Freemasons have a custom of drinking toasts from specially shaped glasses known as cannons or firing glasses, which are slammed on the table making a sound like a gunshot – a firing glass then becomes a shot glass. The firing glass is much older than the shot glass, and has a very specific shape with relatively thin sides, and a very thick protruding base.
This theory argues that the word shot was originally spelled Schott, and named after Friedrich Otto Schott who co-founded the glassworks factory Jenaer Glaswerk Schott & Genossen in Jena, Germany, in 1884. This Jena glass has been theorized as the origin of the first Schott Glass and the source of the name, which was later, in the U.S., mutated to shot glass and the origin of the word forgotten.
Most countries have standard definitions of "single"- and "double"-shot sizes (which are not always in a two-to-one ratio):
|Albania||50 mL||100 mL|
|Australia||30 mL||60 mL||A single shot is sometimes called a "nip". At 30 mL, a typical spirit with 40 percent alcohol is roughly equivalent to one Australian standard drink.|
|Bulgaria||50 mL||100 mL|
|Brazil||40 mL||80 mL||A shot is called a "dose" in Brazil|
|Canada||28.41 mL (1 ounce[not in citation given]) is a short shot (pony shot)||42.61 mL (1.5 ounces)||71 mL (2.5 ounces)||In Canada, a "shot" generally refers to the province's definition of a "standard drink" under liquor licenses. Although sizes may vary, most provinces cite amounts similar to Ontario's guidelines of 0.6 oz. or 17 mL of pure alcohol; since a "shot" is typically a spirit with 40 percent alcohol, this makes the shot 1.5 oz. or 42.62 mL (though many establishments serve a lower "standard drink" of only 1 oz.). A double shot in North America may be either 2.5 or 3.0 fluid ounces. A smaller 1.0 fl. oz. shot is usually referred to as a "pony shot" or "short shot".|
|Croatia||30 mL||60 mL|
|Czech Republic||20 mL||40 or 50 mL||80 or 100 mL||The most common single shot used to be 50 mL but recently it has become 40 mL.|
|Denmark||20 mL||40 mL|
|Estonia||20 mL||40 mL||80 mL|
|Finland||40 mL||In Finland, the maximum amount of strong alcohol restaurants are allowed to serve is regulated by law to one 40 mL portion at a time per customer. Doubles cannot be legally served.|
|Germany||20 mL||40 mL||In Germany, shot glasses (German: Schnapsglas, Pinnchen, Stamperl) are smaller.|
|Greece||45 mL||90 mL||A shot is commonly referred to as a "sfinaki" and it can be made of one liquor or a cocktail mix. There is also an 3 oz - "bottoms up" version of "sfinaki", called "ipovrihio", greek word for submarine. It's served in a standard liquor glass half full of blonde beer, where the bartender adds a glass shot filled with vodka or whiskey.|
|Hungary||20 or 30 mL||40 or 50 mL||80 or 100 mL||In Hungarian, shot glasses are called felespohár (feles meaning "half", standing for 0.5 dL), pálinkáspohár (for pálinka), kupica or stampedli.|
|India||30 mL||30 mL||60 mL||A shot is commonly referred to as a "peg", and is measured as a "small" (chhota), or a "large" (bud-da) peg. A 90 mL shot in India is called a Patiala peg.|
|Ireland||35.5 mL||71 mL||Derived from the use of a quarter-gill (35.516 mL) as the traditional Irish spirit measure.|
|Israel||30 mL||50 or 60 mL||In Israel, the common word for a small shot is צ'ייסר ("chaser").|
|Italy||30 mL||40 or 60 mL||In Italy, the common word for a shot is cicchetto or, more informally and used mainly in nightclubs by young people, shortino. In North Italy, the cicchetto is the most-common way to taste grappa from at least two centuries.|
|Kazakhstan||50 mL||100 mL||In Russia, Kazakhstan, and other CIS (former Soviet) states there is also a larger бокал (glass or goblet), which usually contains 200–300 mL.|
|Lithuania||25 mL||50 mL||100 mL|
|New Zealand||44 mL||88 mL|
|Poland||25 mL||50 mL||100 mL||To take shots in Polish slang is to take po pięćdziesiątce, meaning to take "by fifties" (50 mL).|
|Romania||50 mL||100 mL||A single shot is traditionally known in the Romanian language as unu mic (una mica), meaning "a small one". A double shot is simply called unu (una), meaning "one (big)".|
|Russia||50 mL||100 mL||A double shot in Russian is called сотка meaning the number 100.|
|Serbia||30 mL||50–60 mL||A single shot is traditionally known in the Serbian language as чашица за ракију, meaning "small glass for rakija", or simply as мера – мерица, meaning "measure". A double shot is simply called Дупли, meaning "a double".|
|Sweden||20 mL||40 mL||60 mL||A single shot is referred to as a fyra, meaning "a four" and a double is referred to as a sexa, meaning "a six", as Swedes will generally use centiliters rather than milliliters for any measure larger than 10 mL|
|Slovakia||20 or 25 mL||40 or 50 mL||80 or 100 mL||The most-common single-shot size is the pol deci (literally, "half a decilitre", 50 mL).|
|Slovenia||30 mL||60 mL|
|South Africa||25 mL||The South African government has an official definition for the single-shot size.|
|South Korea||60 mL|
|Turkey||40 mL||80 mL|
|United Kingdom||25 or 35 mL||50 or 70 mL||Shots sold on-premises must contain either 25 mL or 35 mL measures of whisky, gin, rum, or vodka, as defined in the Weights and Measures Act of 1985. This requirement does not extend to other spirits. A 2001 amendment allowed a double shot of 70 mL to be served. Generally, a single measure is equal to 35 mL in Northern Ireland and 25 mL in the rest of the United Kingdom.|
|United States||30 mL (1.0 US fl oz)||44 mL (1.5 US fl oz)||89 mL (3.0 US fl oz)||There is no standard size for a single shot, except in Utah, where a shot is defined at 1.5 fl. oz. Elsewhere in the U.S., the standard size is generally considered to be 1.25–1.5 fl. oz.|
A jigger or measure is a bartending tool used to measure liquor, which is typically then poured into a cocktail shaker. It is named for the unit of liquid it typically measures, a jigger or shot, which measures 1.5 US fluid ounces (44 ml). However, bar jiggers come in other sizes and may not actually measure a fluid jigger.
A traditional style of jigger is made of stainless steel with two unequal sized opposing cones in an hourglass shape on the end of a rod. Typically, one cone measures a regulation single shot, and the other some fraction or multiple – with the actual sizes depending on local laws and customs.
A small shot glass specifically marketed for kitchen use is graduated in units such as ounce and half ounce, teaspoons, tablespoons or possibly millilitres. They are useful for recipes that call for multiples of a smaller unit (e.g. several teaspoons), allowing the dispensing of the amount in a single measure.