Most people don’t associate shots with quality drinking. The word alone evokes unpleasant memories for many. Once they’ve reached a few years past college age, most drinkers abandon shooters in favor of other types of imbibing.
But there’s no more efficient way than shots to get the job done, so to speak, and when made with care, shooters can prove a delicious means to that quick end. Even many high-end cocktail bartenders are fans, with “Snaquiris” (shot-sized mini Daiquiris) and Ferraris (a combination of Fernet Branca and Campari) popular among that set.
These are a dozen of our favorites shots and shooters, from ’80s classics to current college standards and even a couple that wouldn’t be out of place at a dinner party. You’re sure to find a new go-to on this list.
This shooter comes courtesy of famed bartender Naren Young, who previously held the role of creative director at the world-renowned Dante in New York City and is now the creative director at Sweet Liberty in Miami. While the classic oyster shooter typically resembles something similar to a minuscule Bloody Mary, Young’s twist goes a step further. His recipe calls for green vegetables—tomatillos, celery, and cucumber—which are then blended with salt, pepper, green Tabasco and, most importantly, a hearty pour of mezcal for a refreshing accompaniment to a platter of oysters.
Green Tea Shot
It’s unclear how this shot, a contemporary party and dive-bar favorite, got its name: It isn’t green and doesn’t contain any tea—or anything healthy at all, really. But the mix of Irish whiskey, peach schnapps, sweet-and-sour mix, and lemon-lime soda sure is more fun to down than a cup of matcha or the like. Pre-batching a group-size pitcher will make you a hero at your next party.
This three-layered concoction is among the most eye-catching of shooters. Composed of Irish cream liqueur, Grand Marnier, and coffee liqueur, it’s as fun and rowdy as the band for which it was named. Throw on some tunes and get to practicing your layering technique! Hint: Pour the liqueurs slowly over the back of an inverted spoon with its tip barely touching the liquid to ensure maximum separation of the layers.
This shooter is ideal as a nightcap, as it’s essentially a liquid dessert, following a template similar to that of an Irish Coffee. Galliano liqueur, which serves as this shot’s alcoholic component, has notes of vanilla, anise, and cinnamon; it forms the shot’s base along with hot espresso, and freshly whipped heavy cream is layered on top. You’ll likely want more than one of this delicious shooter, so prepare accordingly.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
Washington Apple Shot
The Washington Apple Shot is a slammable version of the Washington Apple cocktail. It’s by no means a sophisticated shooter, but it’s certainly enjoyable. To make it, all it requires is a strong Canadian whisky, cranberry juice, sour-apple schnapps (yes, it’s back), and club soda. If you’re a fan of apple brandy, this apple-and-whisky shot might be especially up your alley. Even if you’re not, it’s tough to go too wrong with this combination.
This citrusy vodka shot was invented on an American naval base in Japan after World War II and hit the mainstream during the peak of vodka’s popularity in the 1970s and ’80s. For lovers of the iconic Cosmopolitan cocktail, the Kamikaze is just one step away from being its miniature, as a shaken mix of vodka, lime juice, and orange liqueur—all it’s missing is the cranberry juice. It may taste so fresh and citrusy you’ll want another immediately, but just remember that it definitely packs a punch.
Technically, this shot is a Boilermaker, a style of drink defined by a shot of liquor—usually whiskey—enjoyed in tandem with a beer. The shot portion of this drink is a two-part mix of Bailey’s Irish cream and Irish whiskey (most commonly Jameson). The beer pairing: Guinness, of course. Drop the shot into the pint of Guinness, throw it back, and repeat. It’s the go-to party starter for St. Patrick’s Day and many a rowdy night year-round.
If there is one mixer that changed and defined drinking culture throughout the early part of the millennium, it’s undoubtedly Red Bull. The company was founded in 1987, and the high-octane energy drink entered the U.S market in 1997 (via California). Since then, Red Bull has been mixed into all sorts of club drinks, most notably the Jäger Bomb. The “bomb” part of its name derives from the act of dropping a shot glass filled with Jägermeister into a glass filled with Red Bull before chugging the whole thing. It may be less sophisticated than the equally caffeinated Espresso Martini, but this two-part concoction is much easier to whip up and arguably more fun.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
This shot has become a staple in dive bars, pubs, and cocktail bars alike. Its origins trace to Brooklyn’s Bushwick Country Club. In 2006, the bar’s neighbor, McClure’s Pickles, asked to store some inventory in the bar’s basement. According to the bar’s owner, John Roberts, a customer asked for a shot of pickle juice to accompany her vodka (a practice common in Russian drinking culture). The order inspired bartender Reggie Cunningham to jokingly pair Old Crow bourbon with a shot of McClure’s spicy pickle juice instead of the traditional can of Pabst Blue Ribbon lager. While the menu item started as a joke, patrons really took to the pairing, and the legend of the Pickleback was sealed. To make it, just grab any decent whiskey—preferably bourbon—and chase it with some pickle juice.
Snap, Crackle, Drop
This list would not be complete without some sort of tequila shot, and the Snap, Crackle, Drop checks that box. This elevated take on the classic tequila shot was created by legendary bartender Salvatore Calabrese, who recommends using a premium tequila as the base. Rather than the usual salt-and-lime to follow, he calls for a mixture of Angostura bitters and freshly ground black pepper, which is rendered into a paste before being applied to the fresh lime wedges. Rather than licking the salt on your hand or wedge, shooting the tequila, and biting the lime, Calabrese encourages imbibers to take bites of the peppery, seasoned lime wedge in between sips of tequila to really enjoy the full process, rather than downing it in one go.
Unlike its similarly monikered sibling below, the inspiration for this shooter’s name is clear: the butterscotch schnapps that form the base of this two-ingredient shot. The other ingredient, Irish cream liqueur, is the one the two shooters have in common. The combination produces a flavor akin to a butterscotch hard candy: creamy, rich, and sweet.
This shooter rose to prominence in the 1980s, when suggestively named drinks were all the rage (think: Sex on the Beach, Fuzzy Navel, and so on). It’s a layered mixture of Irish cream liqueur, anise-flavored sambuca, and grenadine, and is just as sweet-tasting as that list of ingredients suggests, but slips down your throat way too easily.