A shot of whiskey is served at room temperature straight out of the bottle. A neat pour of whiskey is also served at room temperature straight out of the bottle. The same is true no matter the type of liquor. So what makes a shot and a neat drink different? It’s all about the size.
A standard shot is usually 1.5 ounces. That’s the same size as a standard drink, according to the National Institute of Health’s guidelines. It’s also often served in a shot glass, and can refer to both a 1.5 ounce pour of straight liquor or a mixed shot like a Kamikaze. A standard neat drink is usually 2 ounces. It refers only to a straight pour of liquor, like whiskey or nice tequila, and is typically served in a rocks, lowball or tumbler glass.
That half ounce makes all the difference, but the quality of liquor that’s consumed is usually different as well. Shots are normally cheap alcohol that you down quickly. Neat pours are something to be savored. The wider glass gives the spirit room to breathe and you the ability to take in its aroma. Plus slowly sipping whiskey from a tiny shot glass would look ridiculous, no matter how cool your shot glass set is.
Neat pours will generally cost a little more (you are getting more liquor, after all), but the glassware is the most immediately obvious difference. Shot glasses are made to hold 1.5 ounces, so they have a generally similar shape and size. And while a rocks glass is most common for a neat drink, there’s a lot of variation depending on where you’re at and what you order. Neat pours of brandy or Cognac often come in a snifter glass, which has a short stem and a wide bowl. High end drinkware companies like Riedel and Viski have a number of upscale glasses for neat drinks, and there’s even a company called Neat that sells a glass designed for, obviously, sipping drinks neat.
So what should you order neat and what should you order as a shot? There are no hard and fast rules, but we’d recommend ordering your favorite whiskey, brandy, mezcal, tequila, rum or amari neat. Keep the shots to liquor you don’t really want to taste.