Like most drinking rituals, taking shots comes with its own traditions and customs. One such practice involves tapping the table with one’s glass after toasting with the group and before knocking back the shooter.

But where did the practice come from? And why do we do it? VinePair consulted Kirk Estopinal, partner and bartender at New Orleans’ Cure and Cane & Table, for expert insight.

First and foremost, Estopinal says, tapping the table — like any culturally enforced practice — is often an unconscious act. “We all think we’re very independently minded,” he says. “However, we quickly fall into line with societal norms for the most part — and that’s both positive and negative, depending on what those cultural norms are.”

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Even if the ritual’s significance today is centered more around fitting in with one’s surroundings than anything else, hitting the bar with one’s glass began as a way to thank the bartenders and servers who made the joyful moment possible. “It’s my understanding that ‘cheers’ is to the people around that are drinking with you, and the knock is like a cheers towards the house,” says Estopinal. “When you’re given a free shot or a gratuitous drink from the house, the tap is really called for.”

But that’s not to say that bargoers only tap the table when they’re given a free shot. Estopinal says that for younger consumers — especially college students — the thunk on the table is just another way to celebrate a happy, albeit rowdy, night. “But as I get older, I guess I’m still doing it,” Estopinal admits.

As to how the custom began, Estopinal says there’s no way to know the true tale. “Everybody has their own version of that story,” he says. “And maybe the story gets transformed bit by bit by drunken memory.”

So, should all shot takers be tapping the table before knocking their drinks back? Not necessarily. But, if your server was kind enough to pour you a complimentary tipple, it’s a nice way of thanking them. Still, Estopinal says, your bartender likely won’t mind if you accidentally forget the appreciative table tap. “I don’t find it offensive,” he says. “We live in a world where you gotta let that sh*t slide. We’ve got enough to be mad about every day.”