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How to Measure a Shot Without a Shot Glass

Ever wonder how bartenders measure a shot?

When I first started drinking, I bought a bartending book so I could learn how to mix drinks. It was very effective at teaching me great wine cocktails as well as a number of my favorite low-calorie vodka cocktails. It also gave me awesome bartending tips to help me up my mixology game. 

However, it wasn't really good at teaching me how to measure drinks. I ended up having to measure out each little shot in a teeny tiny cup, and that got old fast.

Eventually, my bartender friend taught me how to measure a shot the way they do. Here are a couple of ways to do it without using a glass.

Before we begin, it's important to remember that shot sizes vary.

Most of the time, people assume a shot is about 1.5 ounces of liquor. However, depending on which country you're in, or even what traditions you have at your bar, it can be anywhere from 1 to 2 ounces of liquid.

Of the most basic bartending techniques that are easy to learn, serving them up means nothing if you don't standardized the amount of liquid you are utilizing. 1 to 2 ounces of liquid roughly translates into 20 to 60 milliliters of fluid. For the sake of this guide, we're going to be talking about measuring 1.5 ounces of liquid.

Use a Solo cup.

Red Solo cup, I fill you up. Let's have a party!

It's true, the ubiquitous red cup of college days has proven itself to be one of the best bartending tools you can have when you're on the go. In fact, it can even help you be your very own frat party bartender.

If you're trying to measure a single ounce of liquor, you only need to fill a Solo cup to the first line close to the bottom of the glass. Though it's not exactly a shot size, it's close enough that it won't make a difference in most cases.

Grab a tablespoon.

Looking for more accuracy when you're working with your drinks? Not a problem. You can measure a shot by converting other measurements into the amount of fluid ounces found in a shot.

Tablespoons are the easiest for this. A single shot is equal to three tablespoons, which means that you will be able to get your cocktail on fairly easily and accurately. Easy as it is, there's no shot glass required.

To get a 1.5-ounce shot, just fill the cup to the bottom line three times, and split it into two even shots.

Grab a teaspoon.

If you can measure a shot with a tablespoon, you can also do it with a teaspoon. Liquid conversions show that a teaspoon will hold a third of what a tablespoon can hold. This means that nine teaspoons will carry the same amount of liquor as a shot glass. 

It will require patience, but it's definitely doable. We suggest getting a nice set of measuring spoons so that you don't have to spend so much time with a teaspoon, though.

Use a medicine cup instead.

You remember how your mother used to force you to drink a shot of Tylenol syrup when you were sick? Those tiny little medicine cups are actually very close in size to a regular shot glass—and that makes them good substitutes for a casual mixologist.

Many of these medicine cups also have milliliter measurements on them. A shot is 44.3 milliliters. You do the math.

Use water displacement.

You can turn anything into a shot measuring device if you use water displacement to your advantage. To do this, pour some water into a cup. Then, drop in three nickels and five quarters, which displaces about 1.5 ounces (a shot) of water. Mark the top of the glass.

Then, pour out the water into another cup and remove the coins. Pour the water back in and mark where the water lands. Then, pour out all the water.

Fill your cup with vodka to the top line, and then grab a glass. Keep pouring into the new glass from the first one until the vodka from the first one reaches the bottom line. You have just poured a shot.

Buy jello shots and recycle.

If you just don't have an "official" shot glass, you can still make a makeshift one with a quick trip to the liquor store. This method allows you to get tipsy too!

Just buy ready-made jello shots. Drink one of the shots, then use the plastic cup as a makeshift shot glass. It seems weird, but it works.

Use a jigger.

You know that weird hourglass-looking thing that came with your bartending kit? Yeah, that's actually called a jigger, and it's literally designed to be a measuring device.

The larger cup equals a jigger, which translates into a standard 1.5 ounce pour. This means that you can just use the jigger to measure your shots. If you only need half a shot, use the smaller cup instead!

Learn to eyeball it.

One of the cool things about learning how to bartend and serve drinks is that it becomes second nature. If you do it long enough, you'll be able to just "know" when you see the amount of liquid you need to pour.

Some bartending schools will actually teach you how to count your pours to make your shot game way easier. You can learn this skill fairly quickly online and it comes in handy when you need to measure a shot in a pinch.

Iggy Paulsen
Iggy Paulsen

Iggy Paulsen is a fan of anything and everything wholesome. He loves his two dogs, hiking in the woods, traveling to Aruba, building DIY projects that better humanity, and listening to motivational speakers. He hopes to eventually become a motivational speaker himself.

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