VinePair Podcast: The Enduring Appeal of Shots

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There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to the 1.5-ounce pours of liquor we call shots and the culture behind them. In today’s episode of the “VinePair Podcast,” co-hosts Adam Teeter, Joanna Sciarrino, and Zach Geballe share their views on shot culture. They discuss the traditions associated with shots, and how some liquor brands have built their followings by being well-known shot choices.

Then, Teeter sits down with Jägermeister’s director of innovation Jack Carson to learn how and why Jägermeister became a brand that is largely recognized and loved for its shots. Carson talks about the history behind the brand, and why Jäger shots aren’t going away any time soon.

This Friday’s tasting features, fittingly, shots of Jägermeister. The team tries shots, poured just as Carson recommends, marking the first time many of them have drank Jäger in decades.

Tune in to learn more about the appeal of shots and whether the VinePair team thinks they deserve more credit in the world of drinks.

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Or Check Out the Conversation Here

Adam Teeter: From VinePair’s New York City headquarters, I’m Adam Teeter.

Joanna Sciarrino: I’m Joanna Sciarrino.

Zach Geballe: And in Seattle, Washington, I’m Zach Geballe.

A: This is the Friday “VinePair Podcast” and we’re talking about shots. Yeah. First of all, when is the last time either of you have taken a shot? Joanna?

J: One month ago.

A: What did you take?

J: A shot and a beer. It was whiskey. I was at a bar with a few friends of mine, and my friend Kate loves to take shots.

A: I think I’d like Kate.

J: She’s amazing. We were just casually drinking and having a conversation when she said, “Let’s do a shot and a beer.” She asked for the well whiskey and light beer or whatever they had. They responded, “We don’t have a well whiskey.” It was not that kind of bar. So, I actually don’t remember what we ended up shooting.

Z: Were you at a wine bar? Is that what’s going on here?

J: No. We were at a tavern, but it was kind of nice.

A: I bet Kate said, “Fine. Bring us the Maker’s. We’ll take shots of Booker’s.” I love that. What about you, Zach?

Z: That’s a good question. My last shot that I definitely remember doing was a shot of Fernet.

A: Very on brand.

Z: It almost certainly was on my last night at the Dahlia Lounge. RIP Dahlia Lounge. We all knew things were near the end, so I got off work and said, “Yeah, I’ll have shot. Sure. Sounds good.” That was like 19 months ago. It’s been a while for me, I want to hear your last shot, Adam, but I also want your guys’ thoughts on this. In my opinion, it’s only a shot if you drink it in one go. There should be none of this ordering a shot and a beer and sipping the whiskey.

A: Yeah, of course.

J: Oh, yeah. Duh.

A: We’ll get there, though. We’ll have a conversation about that.

Z: Just making sure we’re all on the same page.

A: I have two “last-time-I-had-a-shot” stories. One is this weird tradition started by Naomi’s grandmother. Naomi’s grandmother — who is no longer with us — had a tradition where, when you break the fast at Yom Kippur, you take a shot of vodka. She was like, “Let’s go.”

J: Oh my God, that’s amazing. You break the fast with a shot of vodka.

A: I think it’s amazing. She would pull out this plastic handle of vodka that must have been in her closet forever. She poured a round of shots for her and all her friends. We would go every year while she was still alive. Naomi and I would go out there. It’d be me, Naomi, and all her old friends.

J: All the octogenarians.

A: Yeah. They would all take shots. It was the best. When I went to that football game, we had shots of Jameson. That was only because it was the only thing the bar had. I’ve never been a Jameson shot person. I feel like, if you’re a Jameson shot person, you know what kind of person you are. You know what I mean?

J: Everyone else knows what kind of person you are. A Jamo.

A: Jamo. Yes, Especially if you’re calling it Jamo, you are a specific person. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. I’m just saying, you are a specific kind of person. I’ve never been a Jameson shot person. I also don’t like to get in bar fights. I’m in the corner, just trying to make friends with everybody. I feel like shots get a bad rap. There are a lot of people that think that shots just mean overindulgence. I do understand that to an extent. If you’re going to sit there and all you’re doing is shots, sure. But there is something about shots and shot culture that’s really fun and totally different than meeting up with your friends to sip a whiskey neat. There’s something about the revelry and having a great time. Why do you think we demonize them so much, besides the fact that it’s about overindulge?

J: I think it’s because they so often lead to bad things.

Z: It’s not even just that it leads to bad things, they’re an accelerant. You may be having an evening at a certain tempo and if you throw a shot in there, suddenly everything goes a lot faster.

J: That’s so true.

Z: Quite honestly, some of that is probably the fact that I’m in my late thirties, and I don’t have the tolerance for accelerated evenings the way I used to, in a lot of ways. I don’t have them very often anymore. There’s something about the shot itself and the culture of it. It’s not that the people who are doing shots don’t care about what they’re drinking. In fact, as I think we’ll discuss in a minute, often they very much care about it. There is something about a drink where you’re consuming it in one gulp that is not completely at odds with connoisseurship, but does not feel aligned with it very well. I think all of us, to some extent, fancy ourselves as connoisseurs. We open the Monday podcast by talking about what we’ve been drinking. We consider a lot of what we drink and we think about it. Shots don’t really allow for that. In fact, one of my favorite shots, the Mind Eraser, very adamantly argues against thinking about what you’re doing.

J: What’s in that?

Z: It’s vodka, Kahlúa, and soda water.

A: What?

Z: And you layer it.

A: So that makes the Kahlúa float, right?

Z: No. The Kahlúa’s usually on the bottom and then you float things on top. You start with the sweet of the Kahlúa. By the time you hit the vodka, you’re already in it.

A: What’s the shot where the stuff floats in it and it looks like drinking brains? That’s a Brain Hemorrhage, right? Yeah, that’s a weird shot, too. I remember taking that in college and thinking it was weird.

Z: Yes. There are many of those different things. To me, it’s not just that you get drunk faster, which is obviously both part of the appeal and downside to shots. It’s also about the fact that you are freely admitting in doing a shot that most of what you care about is the alcohol effect and not so much what you’re tasting.

J: It’s like shotgunning a beer, right?

Z: Yeah. That’s a great example, Joanna. It is just like shotgunning a beer, which I also like doing from time to time. I like to hold the beer bong or whatever, kickstands, et cetera.

A: I can’t do that. It’s too much liquid and carbonation. Not a good idea for me. Never my thing.

Z: You really worry about getting burpy, don’t you?

A: Yeah. I don’t want to get burpy.

Z: You’re too polite.

A: Now that you’re talking about shots, I forgot what we’re talking about. I think the other thing that’s interesting about shots is this culture of all these named shots. The thing that I don’t love about shot culture is how many of them are very offensively named.

J: Yes.

A: Is that changing? People in our office love peanut butter and jelly shots. That seems very safe. That is a classic. Then, you have some that I will not name here. Where does that come from? Is it just because shot culture is all about the idea of “Let’s…

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