If you’ve never worked as a bartender, you may not know the definition of — or etiquette around — handshake shots. These are the shooters that industry pros pour for one another, often in the wee hours after a long shift. Some are more well known — like Fernet, Malort, or the Snaiquiri, a mini Daiquiri of sorts — while others are hyper-regional or made up by individual bartenders to meet their own tastes. Handshake shots are typically a little lower in ABV than a straight-up shot of liquor, and while they’re typically poured by bartenders for their bartending friends, these drinks are also simple, delicious, and easy enough to mix up at home. Here are 13 more unexpected handshake shots, according to bartenders.
The best handshake shots, according to 13 bartenders:
- Spark Plug Shot
- Fino Sherry
- Strawberry Peppercorn Ferrari
- Dolin Genepy with Virgil’s Root Beer
- Meletti and Mezcal
- Choke and Smoke
- Montenegro and Mezcal
- Old Overholt
“Our favorite bartender’s handshake shot is a Spark Plug shot, which is made with vanilla vodka, Kahlúa, Irish cream, and espresso. This shot gives people an extra boost to dance their heart out in the club all night long.” —Julio Martinez, bar manager, Sidebar, San Diego
“I think the new handshake shot is fino sherry. It’s bright, complex, and lower in alcohol, which is a direction that so many people in the industry are trying to move in. Plus, it’s more cost effective, so if you’re a bartender looking to dole out some handshake shots to your peers, you’re still able to keep that comp tab at a reasonable price.” —Danny Childs, beverage director, The Farm and Fisherman Tavern, Cherry Hill, N.J
“Everyone knows a Ferrari shot — equal parts Fernet and Campari — but I made some really good strawberry-peppercorn syrup and it goes with that combination extremely well! Add in some citrus, shake it up, and it’s like if a Snaquiri met a Ferrari. Very tasty.” —Keith Meicher, bar manager, Sepia, Chicago
“My favorite handshake shot is a Fifty-Fifty. I discovered this shot at a bar in Old Town Alexandria. It is 50 percent Averna Amaro and 50 percent rye whiskey. The bittersweet of the amaro and the spiciness of the rye play well together. If you’re in the cocktail world, you tend to love most things amaro.” —Mike Rice, beverage director, Alexandria Restaurant Partners, Alexandria, Va.
“A Malory, which is a nice little split between Campari and Chicago-famous Malort. As crazy as this might sound, it is a great way to tone down the harsh parts of Malort, [and it] gets you good and ready for food, a cocktail, or both! This one feels very Chicago industry to me, and I quite like it.” —Alex Cuper, beverage director, El Che Steakhouse & Bar, Chicago
“Dolin Genepy chased with Virgil’s Root Beer!” —Aaron Tran, beverage director, Corkscrew Wine Shop and Bar, Fort Mill, S.C.
“I drink a lot of amaro and mezcal shots. An M&M is pretty well known in the bar community, and that’s Montenegro and mezcal. I personally love Amaro Meletti and mezcal. Shots of fortified wine are a dead giveaway, too. If I see Bonal in the fridge, I’m drinking that.” —Alex Anderson, bar manager, Takibi, Portland, Ore.
“My favorite new handshake shot is the Pickleback. It’s a shot of Jameson followed by a pickle juice shot. The pickle juice completely helps with the Jameson shot and is also known to [contain] electrolytes.” —Paige Blanchard, Bartender, Eight & Sand, Memphis, Tenn.
“The Choke and Smoke! This isn’t a particularly new shot, but 50/50 Cynar and mezcal is a vegetal and bitter shooter that, for my money, beats the M&M shot eight days out of the week. I can’t take credit for the name, though. It was coined by Ashley Danella in New Orleans about seven years ago, after she poured me about five at 3 in the afternoon.” —Will Patton, bar director, Hive Hospitality, Washington, D.C.
“My favorite shot, which has become a staple at Royal Boucherie, is the M&M: Montenegro and mezcal. It’s one of our features on our weekly industry night, and is also a big hit at the bar in general. I’ve had multiple people tell me I’ve changed their lives by introducing them to the M&M, including a guest this past Saturday. For me, it’s just the perfect combination of my two favorite things: Amaro and agave.” —Eden Beschen, Lead Bartender, Royal Boucherie, Philadelphia
“At Fiola Miami, we go with our cafecito with a kick. [We take] the Cuban coffee tradition and add a splash of dark rum. We love the Bacardi 8 Year Rye Cask for its intense sweet and spicy notes, [mixed with] Cuban coffee and a little Madagascar vanilla syrup. Shake it hard and pour. We love to give them to industry friends when they visit.” —Daniel Bishop, beverage director and head sommelier, Fiola Miami, Miami
“Melti: the perfect handshake shot. A delightful amaro with rich spicy notes of cardamom and cocoa nib, reminiscent of Christmas time.” —Rowland Silva, bar director, Matsu, Oceanside, Calif.