April 25, 2023 by Anna-Bet Stemmet
Learning how many ounces are in a shot is one of the first things you need to get to grips with as a newbie cocktail maker. You know how atoms are the building blocks of life? Well, shots are the building blocks of all our fabulous cocktails! So, let’s go back to basics, shall we?
History of the shot
Before we get down to how many ounces are in a shot, it’s probably a good idea to do a quick round-up of all the fascinating historical occurrences that brought us to this point. Just so we know what we need to know about knowing things about shots, you know? So, here’s the really condensed story of booze over the aeons.
A brief history of alcohol consumption
Fermentation is the process by which yeast breaks down sugars in overripe fruit to produce ethanol, the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. Most scholars believe that our animal friends first discovered the vibey effects of fermented fruit, and our early Palaeolithic cousins might have discovered it as far back as 100 000 years ago.
However, the earliest physical evidence of fermented beverages dates back to 7000 BCE in China, and the practice quickly spread to cultures all over the world. Ancient people made alcoholic drinks from whatever crops and plants grew in their region, resulting in a wide variety of fermented beverages.
This included everything from beer made in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, to chicha made in South America, pulque made from cactus sap in Mexico, and sake made from rice in Japan.
For the first few centuries, fermented beverages had relatively low alcohol content, limited by the fact that yeast died once the alcohol concentration reached about 13%. However, the invention of distillation in the 9th century allowed for the production of much stronger spirits.
Spirits like rum, brandy, and gin became important trade commodities and played a crucial role in long-distance sea voyages. As time went on, alcohol’s role in human society became trickier, with some considering it beneficial for health and creativity while others were concerned about its potential for causing a ruckus.
Alcohol consumption eventually became part of everyday life, but authorities varied in their attitudes towards it, with some countries promoting temperance and others instituting bans on alcohol completely.
The origin of the term ‘shot’
Everyone loves a good origin story, especially if there’s a bit of Wild West ruggedness in the mix. So, it’s really no surprise that the most widely accepted tale of how the term a ‘shot’ of alcohol came to be gained a bit of saloon-infused flair along the way.
Essentially, the story goes that once upon a time a .45 cartridge for a six-gun and a glass of whiskey both cost 12 cents, and that cowhands who were low on cash would swop a cartridge for a drink. However, the first time the term was used in writing actually predates the heyday of the cowboy era, harking back to the mid-1600s.
This is when Reverend Oliver Heywood was the first person to pen the term ‘shot’ in connection with measures of alcohol. According to etymology researchers, he likely repurposed it from the British use of the term ‘shot’, which at the time was a reference to a ‘a charge to be paid’, especially in the context of a hospitality bill.
Yes, yes, it’s total snooze fest in comparison with the cowboy story, we know. Don’t shoot the messenger 😉 Now, let’s get on with the business of how many ounces are in a shot glass, shall we?
Historical variations in shot sizes
The first thing to note about how many oz in a shot glass is that the measurement has varied over the centuries. In the past, shot sizes were measured using different methods like a thimble, a glass, or a pewter cup. Nowadays, the standard shot size in the United States is 44ml, while in Europe it’s typically 25ml or less. However, in the United Kingdom, a “pub measure” was introduced in 1985 which standardised the shot size at 25 millilitres, which is approximately 0.8 ounces.
What is the standard shot size?
A shot of liquor typically refers to a standard measure of spirits used in cocktails and drinks. In the United Kingdom, a “pub measure” was introduced in 1985 which standardised the shot size at 25ml, which is around 0.8 ounces. However, shot sizes still vary across different regions and countries, with some countries using a smaller or larger standard shot size.
Explanation of the official definition of a shot
According to the UK government, a standard measure of liquor like gin, rum, vodka and whiskey are to be measured in 25ml and multiples of 25ml, or 35ml and multiples of 35ml (not both on the same premises).
The standard shot size in different countries
Shot sizes vary around the world. Most countries use the metric system, so shots are often measured in millilitres, not ounces. Here is how much booze you can expect to find in a shot in different countries around the world, in both oz (fluid ounces) and ml (millilitres):
Why the standard size is important
Having a standard shot size is important for several reasons. Firstly, you’ll be able to better control and balance the flavour of your drink if you know how many ounces is in a shot glass. One ounce too many can easily ruin the best cocktail recipe. Secondly, you want to be consistent in your drink delivery and make sure they taste the same round after round.
What is a jigger?
If you’ve recently started making cocktails you may also have come across terms like ‘jigger measurements’, and ‘standard jigger size’. We’re here to tell you that this has nothing to do with The Rolling Stones (although Jagger does provide a great backtrack for a cocktail party!), and everything to do with making drinks measurements super simple.
Explanation of what a jigger is
Having a good jigger in your home bar toolkit is essential if you want to mix cocktails like a pro. They’re easy to use, precise, and can help take your drinks to the next level. Jiggers are used by bartenders to measure precise amounts of alcohol when making cocktails. They are commonly made of metal and have two sides. A standard pour on a jigger’s one side is 30ml, and 45ml on the other. This ensures that drinks are consistent in flavour and strength every time.
The different sizes of jiggers
Jiggers come in many sizes, ranging from 15ml to 16ml. This means you can measure out various standard pours on a jigger, from single shots to a larger serving for sharing with friends. Some jiggers are also adjustable, which is a great feature if you like experimenting with different drink recipes. With an adjustable jigger, you can measure out different amounts of alcohol without having to switch between tools.
How to use a jigger
Here’s an easy step-by-step guide to using a jigger:
- Choose the right jigger size. First, choose the jigger size that matches the recipe you’re making. If you’re not sure what size to use, check the recipe or use a standard 44ml jigger.
- Fill the jigger. Pour your alcohol or mixer into the jigger until it reaches the top.
- Level off the jigger. To get an accurate measurement, you need to level off the top of the jigger. You can use the edge of a spoon or a flat object to scrape off the excess liquid.
- Add to your drink. Once you have measured out the correct amount of liquid, pour it into your shaker or mixing glass and continue making your drink as usual.
- Rinse and repeat. Between drinks, rinse your jigger with water to remove any residue and prepare it for the next measurement.
Measuring shots without a jigger
If you don’t have a jigger on hand, don’t worry! There are a few ways to measure shots without one:
Using a shot glass
Shot glasses are a popular and widely available alternative to jiggers. Most shot glasses hold 44ml of liquid, which is the standard shot size in the US. If your recipe calls for a different size, you can use a measuring cup to measure out the correct amount of liquid and then pour it into the shot glass.
Other ways to measure shots
Measuring cup. If you have a measuring cup on hand, you can use it to measure out the amount of liquid you need. Simply fill the measuring cup with the desired amount of liquid and pour it into your shaker or mixing glass.
Tablespoon. If you’re in a pinch, you can use a tablespoon to measure out your shots. One tablespoon is equivalent to 15ml, so you’ll need two tablespoons to measure out a standard 30ml shot.
Eyeballing it. This is not the most accurate method, but it can work in a pinch. Simply estimate the amount of liquid you need by pouring it directly into your mixing glass or shaker. This method requires a little bit of practice and may not be suitable if you’re trying to achieve precise measurements.
Or you could go full-on pro, and learn how to count off a shot… In short, to speed-pour a single, count to three – one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, and stop. To pour a double, count to four at the same pace as above.
There you have it – a brief overview of the history and origin of shots in alcoholic beverages, the history behind the term ‘shot’, standard shot sizes in different countries, and how to measure a shot like a pro. Off you go, young Padawan! Happy pouring.