Food & Drink

In Defense of Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots, Shots

LMFAO and Lil’ John said it best when they shouted at the top of their lungs, “shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, everybody.”

Shots are great and meant for just that: everybody.

Yet these tiny-but-potent servings of booze certainly have equally potent detractors—and for a couple of good reasons. First of all, there was the ‘90s, that flashy, gaudy era of bustiers and Junko Jeans when shots came in the form of mini, sugary cocktails. They were neon. They were sold in test tubes by scantily clad ladies for far too much money. They were tacky. And if they weren’t Kamikazes, they were wastes of top shelf spirits, tossed back at douchey clubs by douchey drinkers. Understandably, discerning purists, in typical fashion, turned their backs on shots, dismissing them as an amateur’s game.

Of course, there are others who don’t give a damn about shots’ reputation, but simply had a bad experience taking them—that’s where I fit in. I can distinctly remember (or at least foggily recall) a night with a bottle of Mr. Boston white rum. Friends and I thought we were doing shots, but really we were just splitting an entire bottle of rum, using shot glasses as a sort of middleman. That’s not taking shots. That’s straight up binge drinking. And it’s certainly not worth defending.

That night left me with a profound sense of regret, a severe hangover and a distinct hatred for shots. They were evil, I thought. They were juvenile—and I would never do them again. I maintained that opinion until one night when a Russian chef offered me a shot of vodka and a slice of lemon. If you’ve ever met a Russian chef, you already know never to refuse one. So, together, we took the shots and bit down on the lemons. Fully expecting to retch, I came up refreshed and ready to plow through the feast of pâtés and pickles she had laid down in front of me.

You see, Russians know how to do shots the right way. They shoot vodka all night long at the dinner table, toasting and drinking and snacking the night away. Far from the ‘90s club kids or confused coeds, these are friends and families enjoying a night together over many shots of very cold vodka and bites of borscht. They are not drinking to get drunk—but drinking to form a social bond.

Drinking can be very insular and individual—even when done amongst pals. In fact, that’s part of its appeal. Personally, I enjoy a Gin Martini, stirred, up, with three olives. You, on the other hand, might be more of a 50-50 guy or an Extra Dirty gal. These drink choices are deeply personal and define who we are, setting us apart from others. Shots are the universal equalizer. Usually consisting of just one type of spirit, shots are taken as a group, in unison. It’s a ritual, a shared experience. You abandon your picky tastes and snobbery for the sake of community. You all bare your teeth, let out a loud “gah!” and shiver the alcohol down as one, slightly more intoxicated unit. And, suddenly, you’re all that much closer.  

I experienced this phenomenon not long ago when, at a bachelorette party, I was presented with a shot of Fireball, something I never thought I’d drink (you can lump me in with those spirit snobs I mentioned earlier). I cringed and recoiled as the saccharine sweet smell hit me. I briefly considered handing the shot off to a nearby stranger or simply throwing it in the air and running. But then the group of ladies—some friends, some strangers—all raised their glasses and, as ‘90s music thumped around us, I raised mine. We downed our slick, cinnamon shots together. I gagged—but when I recovered I looked around and realized that we had all been through something together. Was I about to call for another round of Fireball? Certainly not. After that initial shot, I went back to my Tecates with lime. But the shots had done their job—and the whole weekend was the better for it. We had survived a round of Fireball shots. It was harrowing, and it was unifying.

The next time someone orders a round of shots, don’t roll your eyes and mutter, “amateurs,” under your breath. Go for it. Yes, you might gag, but, as LMFAO says, “We came to party rock, everybody it’s on. Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, everybody.