“It’s a certain type of person who orders a shooter,” a young woman sipping a tequila soda at a West Villlage dive tells me on a recent balmy July evening.
The shooter, basically a concentrated cocktail served in a tall shot glass, has been around for ages. But there’s one in particular that’s soaring in popularity at bars across the nation: the Green Tea shot — a combination of Irish whiskey, sour mix, and peach schnapps.
“It’s just … a cheugy thing to order,” a 20-something wearing a crop top says as she scrolls through TikTok — “cheugy” being Gen Zers’ favorite insult to cheesy, out-of-style millennial trends like side parts and skinny jeans.
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Mixed shots have long been despised by bartenders for their lowbrow, simplistic makeup, and clearly, some drinkers feel the same way. But whether or not these drinks — which don’t contain a drop of actual tea — are enjoyed by the people who make or drink them, they’re certainly selling.
In fact, for Michigan-based bartender Katie Palonis, “tea” shots pay the rent. She’s been making Green Teas for nearly 10 years, but recently, the drink is seeing a resurgence. “Post-pandemic, it’s like people found it again or something,” she says. “I make it all the time at work, and I don’t mind because it’s super easy.” At her current bar, Whisky in the Jar in Hamtramck, Mich., a Green Tea shot button was even added to the POS speed screen, because “that’s how much they get ordered.”
And not only by millennials. Though the bar welcomes a relatively diverse group of customers in terms of age range, “there’s this group of older dudes that comes in,” Palonis says. “After they’ve had a couple, they’re always like, ‘We need Green Tea shots … and get one for yourself!’”
Make them she does — around 10 rounds a night. Though Green Tea shots started the trend, White Tea shots, which sub vodka for Irish whiskey, are becoming ever more popular at dives like Palonis’s across the country — especially when made with flavored spirits. “A lot of people like it with cherry vodka,” she notes.
Cheugy or not, it seems the average shot-taker doesn’t care if the Green Tea is cool; just that it’s undeniably tasty. “Part of me feels like, if you’re going to order a shot, you should be taking a shot,” says a young woman nursing a highball at the same West Village bar. “But I’m bad at taking shots, so I sympathize with the fact that you’d want it to taste good.”
Shooters have long been requested for this exact reason. The Lemon Drop ruled the ‘90s while the Snaiquiri (mini Daiquiri) remains an industry handshake. But none have garnered such strong reactions or seeped into dive bar culture like the Green Tea — an invention for which many credit the marketing team at Jameson.
While rising in popularity, the Green Tea shot has at the same time gone the way of Certified Girly DrinksTM like the pink-hued Cosmopolitian or fruity flavored Marg. Despite being delicious, it’s simply not en vogue to like them. Higher-proof alternatives like a straight shot of whiskey, widely viewed as more masculine options, are the ones more “respected” by dive bar-goers. As one opinionated drinker posited: “The girls who make Green Tea shots their personality? That’s embarrassing. You shouldn’t flaunt it.” Says another, “Why not just order a tequila shot?”
Part of consumers’ reluctance to admit they like Green Tea shots may be their strange combination of ingredients. Though Palonis argues that her creations taste just like a bottle of Pure Leaf, others aren’t so quick to taste the similarities between the shot and the wellness drink. “I thought it would taste at least a little like Green Tea, and it just didn’t at all,” says a bar-goer wearing the slicked-back hairstyle that’s trending on social media. “But it didn’t taste like alcohol, either.”
For Jason Sorbet, assistant general manager of food and beverage for The Chloe in New Orleans, the Green Tea shot — like the Certified Girly DrinksTM that preceded it — is all about fun. “Those drinks exist for a reason,” he says. “I think it’s OK to embrace that and try to improve upon those drinks.” Though the restaurant bar he works at doesn’t carry sour mix or peach schnapps, he mixes up his more highbrow version on the rare occasion a guest orders one. “I just do equal parts Irish whiskey, lemon juice, and Giffard peach liqueur,” he says. “Just doing an ounce of each makes three shots, so you can convince someone else to take one.”
But let’s be honest: No one’s ordering a Green Tea shot at a craft cocktail bar. There’s a time and a place for the drink, and at the local watering hole, where community is central, regulars know this. Palonis says it’s rare if ever that a patron orders a single tea shot. “It’s like a weird communal thing,” she laughs. “The Green Tea is uniting people or something.”
Something that unites younger drinkers? Making fun of millennials. “The Green Tea shot is making something low-quality seem artisanal,” the TikTok scroller sighs. “And that’s cheugy.”