Who’s Calling the Shots?

To many, shots are simply disgusting and forced on you by friends and colleagues – but for some reason, we just can’t say no, even if we want to. But it doesn’t have to be that way…

There are shots, shooters and bombs

First of all, most Shooters are rubbish. Shooters are mixed drinks served in a shot glass or rock glass. The juice or syrup is mixed with some spirt or liqueur. Shooters may be shaken, stirred or blended, which means water from the ice will be diluted into your drink. Basically, these are tiny cocktails such as Cosmopolitans. Don’t be cheated by these ‘cocktail shots’ as bartenders tend to rip you off by adding a minimal amount of booze and plenty of juice. Also, juice tends to have plenty of sugar, which adds calories, disguises the taste and often affects how you feel the next day.

Galliano shooter

Next are Bombs. Bombs are the worst! These are drunk with energy drinks, for example Jägermeister served with half a can of Red Bull (which nowadays is often replaced by cheap random brands). This drink contains too much caffeine. Two bombs with Red Bull are equivalent of one mug of instant coffee or two cans of Coke. The caffeine makes you drink more, may make your heart race and interrupts your sleep later on. And don’t even get me started on the sugar levels. A women’s daily sugar intake should be no more than 50g, and one can of energy drink is 30g on its own!

Shots are the real deal – poured straight from the spirit bottle into your shot glass. In the UK, shot glasses are 25–35ml. (Generally, a single measure is equal to 35ml in Northern Ireland and Scotland and 25ml in the rest of the UK – not really any surprises there!) Many different kinds of shots are considered below, but the general rule is that whilst the very best spirits are to be sipped and enjoyed and not used in shots, there are still plenty of great-tasting spirits that work better than the usual throat-rippers sold in most bars.

don julio tequila range


Tequila is one of my personal favourites as there are so many to choose from! You can always choose to sip it and really taste the flavours rather than downing it all at once. Make sure it is always 100% agave. There are exceptions but, as a general rule, most of the quality Tequilas out there are made of 100% agave and will say so on the label. Those that don’t specify this may contain other fermentable sugars, such as corn syrup, in addition to agave. And it is these additions that can cause hangovers and ruin the real Tequila experience.

For a shot, ask for a Reposado (aged two to 12 months) instead of Blanco (no ageing to a maximum of two months), as most bars will push you towards that horrid throat-burning cheap stuff. Salt and lemon/lime is used to cover the taste of the bad Tequilas and should not be used with smooth, refined ones. Some bars offer Sangrita, spicy pineapple or tomato juice, to clean the palate after drinking Tequila. If you must have Blancos, then you should try El Jimador Blanco as an entry-level shot as it is softer in taste than many others. There will be several options, so I would always speak to the barman first. Don’t drink the more expensive stuff as a shot as it would be a waste, but you still don’t need to settle for paint stripper either, as there should be nice entry-level Tequilas available in most decent bars. And there is always the option of 1800 Coconut Tequila, which is real good and popular amongst the ladies!

koskenkorva nordic berries


As a Finn, this is also a big one for me. Vodka should be drunk ice cold, ideally straight from the freezer, but from the fridge is also acceptable. Obviously, I’m biased towards Finnish Vodkas as I find their flavour so much smoother and less medicinal than some of the Russian options, for example. And before you ask, we don’t drink Finlandia. No self-respecting Finn drinks it as it is just not good enough.

I like Koskenkorva and Laplandia, and they both do different flavoured Vodkas as well, which work well as a shot. Superfood fans should try Laplandia Acai Shot. The tradition in my family is to drink Vodka shots during dinner parties. You never drink alone and should pour for everyone at the table. It is rare for anyone to decline. There are also several DIY Vodkas such as ‘Fisu’ – Fisherman’s Friend pastilles diluted in Vodka, ‘Salmiakki’ – made from salty liquorice. Or you can use other boiled sweets such as mints to create your own mix. You just need to add the sweets into the Vodka bottle and keep shaking every now and then. It usually takes a few days for them to melt. If you need it faster, the Finnish tradition is to put the bottle in the dishwasher for a short wash and that does the trick. Just cool it down before serving.

If you can’t get your hands on the Finnish Vodkas, good alternatives are, for example, Belvedere from Poland, Sipsmith, Blackdown Sussex, Snow Queen, and an interesting one is Idol from France, produced from grapes.

Herbal shots

Herbal shots are made from many herbs, roots and spices and are best served after or during dinner, but they are also popular as a party shot. Jägermeister is probably the most common (it is made from over 50 different herbs and spices). Why not be bold and try green or yellow Chartreuse? It’s mainly used in cocktails but is a nice option on its own. Green Chartreuse has 130 different herbs and plants. Yellow, on the other hand, is milder and sweeter in flavour. Both are considered liqueurs; however, Chartreuse is 40–55% ABV! My favourite herbal shot is Galliano; in Finland we serve it as a shooter with blueberry soup and cream. Very girly and an easy way to impress your fellow party guests. Also check out Valhalla, a hard-core herbal liqueur which comes in a matt-black bottle to impress, best served ice cold.

vodka shot vodka shot vodka shot

Few tips for polite shot drinking

  • Avoid hitting the glass on the table like you’ve just achieved something great, the truth is you probably didn’t
  • Do not waste half of your shot when clicking glasses with others, you wouldn’t waste it if you bought it
  • If you don’t like what you have been given then you better get the next round
  • You are supposed to enjoy yourself so why not getting something tasty for once, surprise your girlfriends
  • Don’t ask someone to drink the shot for you, you have two choices; either you man up or don’t accept the shot in the first place

Bottom line

Shots are a big part of the party season, so why not make it enjoyable? Find out what you like and be open to new ideas. Often shots are forced on you by someone else, but rather than drinking any old moonshine, ask for certain brands and not just for ‘vodka’ etc. There are some nice rums you can drink as a shot, but, personally, I feel that good rums and whiskies should be appreciated more, so drinking them as shots just feels like a waste.

Try flavoured spirits rather than shooters or bombs. Jim Beam does a honey bourbon that is actually good, and there are several Vodkas and Tequilas, from coffee to honey or mint flavours. If you need salt and lemon with Tequila shots then you should find another spirit to drink. The main thing is for you to enjoy the party, so there is no point in downing poison or forcing your friends to drink the same. Have a great party and drink to impress!

Dont drink tequila and lime

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