atm-logoWhat is the origin of the shot glass?

Bob Cox
Phoenix, Arizona

Shot glasses probably date back more than 200 years, and nobody seems to agree on just when, where and how they came about.

One origin story I like suggests “shot” refers to a small amount of whiskey. The imbiber downs the contents of the small glass, and then he slams the glass down on the bar with a resounding “shot.”

Another claim: the name comes from Old West saloon patrons bellying up to the bar and trading a cartridge for a glass of whiskey. A shot for a shot, as it were.

Another version suggests the small glass is named after Friedrich Otto Schott and sold by a German glass factory around 1884.

In the 1940s, the shot glass was first documented in reference to regulating the amount of liquor in a drink. By that time, owners probably put it in place to prevent bartenders from overpouring.


Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.  If you have a question, write:  Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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