Shots And Shooters Are Not The Same

Whether you're brand new to the bar scene or easily intimidated by the super cool bartenders waiting for you to decide what you want to drink, it's common to make a mistake when ordering at a bar. Not all mixologists will know how to make the trendy new drink you saw on TikTok, and unless you know the exact recipe, you might end up with a gin and tonic, whether you wanted one or not.

Mixed drinks and spirits have evolved so much in recent years that even ordering shots is no longer a simple task. Most bartenders will understand the exclamation, "Shots for the table!" to mean a one-fluid-ounce pour of clear alcohol, usually vodka or tequila, with a slice of lime if you're lucky. But if you were hoping for a colorful, fruity concoction with whipped cream on top, you might want to learn if your favorite drink is actually a shot or a shooter. While most people will use the terms "shot" and "shooter" interchangeably, there is a distinct difference between the two orders.

For a simple swig of hard liquor, order a shot

Mixologist and author Amy Zavatto told The Kitchn, "A shooter will include a mix of liquors and a mixer; a shot is a straight-up something, or mix of a couple of straight-up-somethings." The practice of "taking a shot" is at least a century old, if not more — while the exact origins are unclear, a shot could have referred to how drinks were measured and later became a colloquial term for a "small glass of liquor," according to Highland Boundary. Some cultures incorporate shots of straight liquor in rituals and social practices, while others order the small but mighty drinks for a good time. The most important thing to remember about ordering a shot is that it won't have anything mixed in to dilute the alcohol or come with a mixer to wash it down.

When you want to order a shot at the bar, the best way to phrase it is a simple, "shot of tequila, please." For a more complex shot containing multiple types of liquor, consider the B-52 shot made with three layers of liquor, the silver bullet with equal parts gin and scotch, or the sweet and spicy cinnamon toast crunch shot with Rumchata and Fireball whiskey that burns so good. While these drinks are seemingly complex, they are distinctly a "liquor-only" mixture, classifying them as a shot. If the thought of straight-up tequila activates your gag reflex, we urge you to consider an artisanal shooter instead.

If you prefer your alcohol sweet and picturesque, order a shooter

Shooters are exciting concoctions that combine drinking and showmanship. From the crowd-pleasing "blowjob shot" to the sweet and sour Kamikaze, shooters combine liquor with mixers, juices, and even bits of candy to create a delicious swig of booze that's less likely to trigger your gag reflex. Many shooters attempt to recreate the taste of another classic dish, like the jolly rancher shooter that uses sweet and sour mix and fruity schnapps to capture the essence of the hard candy.

The term shooter is not only unique to alcoholic beverages — in recent years, weddings and parties have seen an increase in appetizer shooters being passed around for guests to enjoy. Offering partygoers a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese requires a sit-down dinner, multiple utensils, and the possibility of making a total mess. But a tomato soup shooter with a mini grilled cheese on top is the perfect play on comfort food that keeps guests full and happy while they walk around and mingle. Appetizer shooters have gotten extremely creative, putting everything from a pesto dipping sauce to a layered salmon and cream cheese dish into a bite-sized glass.

Next time you're ordering at the bar, flex your linguistic knowledge of shots versus shooters and ensure you get the drink you want every time.