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.