Food & Drink

The One Birthday Shot Health Inspectors Don’t Want You to Take

There are shots so strong they could take down Andre the Giant and shots so gross they make your stomach feel like a cement mixer. Then there’s the one shot that, if you take the advice of health inspectors, you should never take because it’s downright unsanitary. That shot is the Bar Mat Shot.

Bar Mat Shots are made by taking the culmination of all of the liquid spilled onto the bar mat after a night of making drinks and pouring it into a shot glass. Think of it like when you were a kid and put one of each soda from the soda machine into your drink, but instead of putting it straight into your cup, you let the soda fall into the catcher to sit for a couple hours before drinking it. Or think of it like a Long Island Iced Tea, aged for a couple hours and served warm. By its nature it can only be drunk at the end of the night (the more spills the better), and is usually served as a free shot to unruly customers or as a birthday nightcap to people who make questionable decisions.

The Bar Mat Shot goes by many names. Depending on which part of the country you’re in, it can be called a Gorilla Fart, Mat Damon, Sweaty Bartender, Grey Snail, Dirty Cow, Sweaty Biker or, if you’re in Philadelphia, a Jersey Turnpike. Regardless of the name, it’s well known enough to earn multipleUrban Dictionary entries and entire threads on Reddit. I’ve seen them taken in person—multiple times—by fraternity guys celebrating their 21st birthday in Auburn, Alabama. All of this despite this enlightening piece of advice from a bartender on Reddit who writes, “don’t evvver drink that lol. I used to work in a place where id (sic) come in and they hadnt been washed since my last shift three days prior. Nooo…..”

It’s not the most common order, and if you’re one of the folks who has managed to avoid any and all mention of Bar Mat Shots, here’s an apt description of the flavor from another Reddit user who claims to have taken them pretty regularly: “It usually tasted like overly sweet Long Islands with a hint of dirty rag. There were usually a small handful of fruit flies in there, too, but the alcohol kills and sterilizes them so who cares.”

The only problem with that description is that the alcohol definitely does not sterilize the shot. Some of the spills come from liquor bottles, but not all of them. There’s also soda water, juice, melted ice and anything else that a bartender might drop. Liquor, usually the most expensive ingredient in a cocktail, is probably the least of what a bartender spills onto the bar mat. Alcohol-wise, the shot is no stronger than any other shot. Even if it was, alcohol that you can drink isn’t strong enough to kill most bacteria.

By the New York Department of Health regulations, Bar Mat Shots would fall under the category of “imminent health hazard” under the Public Health Hazards category. Specifically, it breaks the rule that prohibits serving something “exposed to consumer or other contamination.” Serving any food or drink that has been exposed to “filth” or that’s put in any condition that “permits introduction of pathogenic microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa or worms) or foreign matter” is grounds to shut an establishment down. Lukewarm liquid sitting in the creases of a bar mat meets that description.

There are plenty of regulations that health departments around the country put in place to keep us safe. That doesn’t stop the extra curious or careless from breaking them. After all, a Bar Mat Shot won’t kill them. Probably.