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What is a Shot Glass?

By Nadia Miller
Updated May 16, 2024
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A shot glass is a small receptacle generally used to measure alcohol. Sometimes known as a jigger, each glass is usually about one ounce (29.57 ml), while a jigger is actually one and a half ounces (44.36 ml). The glasses are available in basic shapes and sizes and can also be decorative or unique in nature. While glass is the most common form, they can also be made of plastic or metal.

One of the most common uses for a shot glass is in a bar. Alcohol is measured into the glass to help determine the quantity for a mixed drink. Most bartenders will pour more than one shot glass's worth of the desired alcohol. The alcohol goes from the shot glass into the drink mixer along with soda, juice, and other types of alcohol.

Shot glasses are more than just functional. For many, they are collectors' items or souvenirs. They are a popular marketing tool for hotels, resorts, and casinos. As they're small, shot glasses are a convenient and easy memento to transport from a vacation or other special occasion.

In the world of espresso drinks, shot glasses have taken on a role other than measuring alcohol. They are used to measure coffee. The number of shots ordered at an espresso bar will determine the amount of espresso in a coffee drink. A double latte, for example, has two shots of espresso. Ordering by shot is a popular way to get a drink in a coffee shop.

Completing a drinkware set for a home will usually include a set of shot glasses. They can be used for the occasional shot of alcohol or for drinking small portions of a mixed drink. In a typical glass collection, the shot glass may not look as industrial or functional as those seen in a bar or coffee shop. These more decorative shot glasses may have rounded bottoms or come in different colors. Many times, they are taller than the typical one-ounce (29.57-ml) version, allowing them to hold more alcohol.

When shopping for decorative shot glasses, the possibilities are wide. The glasses can be purchased in sets or individually. Many stores sell shot glasses based on the type of alcohol for which they are designed to be used. For instance, it's not uncommon to find tequila glasses in the shapes of small cacti. Shot glasses can be a fun and relaxed way to serve a drink.

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Discussion Comments

By aLFredo — On Sep 30, 2011

I used to have a few nice glass shot glasses, but they ended up being broken. So my last set of shot glasses I had were just plastic, I bought them more for function than form.

I also used to give people shot glasses for special occasions in college, if I had no clue what else they would like or use.

Now I don't drink much, and if I do, it is not alcohol that you typically "shoot", so I don't own any shot glasses anymore.

By Mae82 — On Sep 30, 2011

Shot glasses can actually make a really great gift for those that attend your wedding. When I got married we gave everyone an engraved shot glass that had the date of our wedding and our names on it.

So often people get things at weddings that they never use. At least with our gift we knew it would more than likely be put to use at some point. It looks a lot nicer than some of the cheap plastic shot glasses you see around.

If you want to buy shot glasses for your wedding, most wedding planners should have a place on file that makes them for custom orders.

By popcorn — On Sep 29, 2011

My friend has a pretty impressive collection of shot glasses in her basement bar. She loves novelty shot glasses so her friends are always bringing her quirky ones from different events.

One of the best ones she had is made for black lighting. It looks like a regular shot glass until you shine a black light on it and then you can see it actually a personalized shot glass. A friend of ours had it made for her when he was down in Vegas.

I think that having a great set of cool shot glasses is essential if you love to entertain and have gone to the trouble of outfitting your own home bar.

By SZapper — On Sep 29, 2011

@ceilingcat - I keep a few shot glasses handy myself. However, mine aren't technically glasses. They're more like mugs.

You know those ceramic type shot glasses they serve sake in at restaurants? I opted to get that kind for my apartment. I think they're kind of unique looking as far as shot glasses go!

By ceilingcat — On Sep 28, 2011

@strawCake - That's funny that your mom thought she was getting you an awesome gift and you didn't even want it! Sounds like everything ended up okay though.

I keep about four shot glasses in my apartment. I don't drink out of them often, but they're handy for when people come over. Also, I was able to get them for pretty cheaply, and they match the rest of my glasses.

By strawCake — On Sep 27, 2011

A few years ago, I accidentally amassed quite the shot glass collection. My mom and step-father travel a lot, and somehow my mom got this idea that I liked shot glasses. So she brought me back a shot glass from every place they went.

Soon, I had a ton of shot glasses and nothing to do with them. I rarely drink alcohol and when I do I don't drink shots!

Then one Christmas, my mom told me she had gotten me an awesome gift. I was so excited. What was it? An e-book reader? A camera? Something I would actually really like?

It was a shot glass case! I was so disappointed when I opened it up. I had absolutely no desire to display a shot glass collection on my wall.

I didn't want to upset my mother though, so I just said I liked it. For about the next year, she and my step father kept offering to come over and put it up. I made excuses about not having time or whatever.

Finally I told my mom the truth one day: that I didn't want to hang up the shot glass case and I never did. I ended up giving the whole collection to my step-sister, who loves it and has it hanging in her basement.

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