Spirited Arms #001 – The Origin of a “Shot” of Liquor


Spirited Arms #001 – The Origin of a “Shot” of Liquor

For many of you who join us here at AllOutdoor, we enjoy not only the outdoors, firearms, and all of the recreation that comes between both of those realms, but we also appreciate a good drink. Our country was founded on the idea that we have discerning tastes for our drinks (tea, whiskey, or otherwise), and what we would like to do with all of you is explore our past where liquor and firearms are bound together. Our storied history of firearms and spirits begins during the American Revolution, was carried into the lawless and wild west, continued forward through prohibition, and remains today as most Americans view a good glass of scotch as being akin to a trusty pump shotgun, apple pie, and baseball – it’s Americana at its best. So, join us weekly here on Spirited Arms as we navigate all things firearms and liquor related in the past, present, and potentially the future.

Welcome to our recurring series of Spirited Arms. Here, we want to share the intricate, interwoven history of firearms and alcohol. From periods of our country’s rebellion being mere colonies to becoming our own country, the wild and unchartered west, gangsters moving illegal spirits during prohibition, and even the fascination that remains today among gun owners and those who appreciate a well-crafted drink. Hopefully along the way you can garner a greater appreciation for the libations of the past and the liquor of today. Simultaneously, we hope you can teach us things as well through sharing your own expertise and thoughts in the Comments. Understanding our past can lead us to an even greater enjoyment today surrounding the drinks and firearms we share among friends. We hope you enjoy what we have to share!

We all have heard of the phrase a shot of liquor and/or we have said it ourselves. “Bartender! I’ll take a shot Jack Daniels.” While many of us might be familiar with the phrase, are you familiar where it came from. It has a very interesting, unique, and simple origin. The most popularized explanation to the mythical “shot” is tied to the Old West period of cowboys, Indians, sheriffs, and dusty towns across the not yet civilized landscape of America in the 1800s.

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It is said that if cowboys, cowhands, outlaws, and sheriffs alike would ever like a drink of liquor at a saloon in the Old West – but were short on cash – they would simply remove one shot (one round of ammunition) from the “big iron on his hip” (lyrics from the famous Johnny Cash – “Big Iron” song) to pay for their drink. This fanciful rendition of the history of a “shot” normally is referencing the iconic .45 Long Colt cartridge (pictured above). Unfortunately, as popular and whimsical as this origin tale might be, it is not the true origin of a shot of liquor.

Depending on what historian you talk to and how valid they believe their sources to be, the real origin of the phrase “a shot of liquor” goes all the way back to the 1400s-1700s. According to old English dictionaries, the term of a shot was meant to reference a debt to be paid; like a debt or bill at a bar. So, back then when someone said a shot it wasn’t so much the drink they were referencing; rather, the debt that needed to be paid from already consuming drinks.

Whether you wish to believe our historic scholars or simple appreciate the more entertaining tale from the Old West, one thing is certain: if I were a bartender today, I would not refuse the payment of one round of .45 Long Colt if someone ordered a shot of liquor. Not only because ammunition has gotten painfully expensive, but it is not often people mosey on into bars with a big iron on their hip anymore. As always, let us know all of your thoughts about this inaugural Spirited Arms in the Comments below! We always appreciate the feedback.

Spirited Arms – Drink of the Week: Whiskey Neat

  • 2 Ounces of your Favorite Whiskey
  • 1 – “Neat” Glass (Glass Tumbler will suffice as well)

The classic whiskey neat can be as complicated or simple as you want to make it. Specific whiskey “neat” glasses exist that have gentle, precise curves designed into them to squeeze lighter ethanol molecules out of its opening and keep the heavier, delicious smelling molecules within. For tasting different vintages of whiskeys or while looking to have a greater depth of enjoyment and flavor for yourself, it is highly recommended to use a “neat” glass.

If you are unfamiliar with a “neat” glass or do not have one, no worries. Simply use a common glass tumbler, pour 2 ounces of your favorite whiskey in at room temperature, and serve as is (no ice). For us, we enjoyed some TINCUP Rye whiskey which is crafted to:

“The original rye recipes enjoyed by settlers and miners of Tin Cup, Colorado with a taste that matches the bold spice and spirit of the Old West.” 

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Tincup Rye American Whiskey – Tincup, Colorado
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