Have you ever wondered why we tap our shot glasses on the bar before throwing one back?
Yeah, I was wondering too.
Is it a Milwaukee thing? Something from Wisconsin? Or does this tradition extend beyond state borders?
Google offers a few ideas, but they don’t really add up. Some suggest it’s a way to toast the dearly departed, and it’s less pointless than “pouring one”…but does your great-great-grandfather really want you to wake him up at the paradise every time you slap a slice of tequila?
Others think it’s a way to recognize the bartender for their service. It makes sense, but customers tap their shots whether or not the bartender is participating – or even watching.
I even found this explanation improbable: “In Ireland it was believed that alcohol contained spirits which could be harmful if consumed, and that tapping the glass dispelled these spirits.”
It all seems a bit random to me. So I asked a few bartenders in Milwaukee, as well as others further afield, why they thought we were participating in this ritual at the local tavern.
Paul Kennedy, who is a bartender at Newport and Creed’s Foggy Dew, says he noticed this tradition about 15 years ago. He says he asked customers why they did it, but never got a definitive answer.
“The most common answer I’ve been given is that it’s in honor of a friend/loved one who is no longer with us,” he says. “I was also told that it was a tribute to the bartender. It’s nice but greetings don’t pay the electricity bill. I refuse to do so. As far as I know, it could be a black magic ritual and a way to conjure up evil. That’s how we ended up with Ron Johnson in the Senate.
“I always thought it was a sign of respect for the bar and/or the bartender,” suggests Nate Tomzcuk, who was a bartender at Safe House and Fanatics Sports Central but cut his teeth at Manitowoc. “Just like people clink glasses with their cocktails/drinks or pour some on the floor for their dead homies.”
Nomadic bartender Sammy Mentkowski suggests a different reason, one I take with a salt shaker and a lime.
“It all goes back to the early juke joints, where sawdust was placed on the dance floor for easy cleanup when needed,” he says. “After particularly loud wang dang doodles, sawdust particles filled the air covering everything nearby, including glassware. Tapping the glass on the bar was a way to remove sediment before taking a sip of that sweet dance juice.
“It’s a pressure on the bar for me,” says Amanda Wisth, who was a bartender at Joey’s Yardarm in Racine. “When I was behind the bar and sent them away with the customers, it was a tap, a wink and a glass raise. To thank them for the (many) knocks. As a customer, that the bartender joins or not is not the same thing: a tap, a wink, and a raised glass to thank them for their service Whether they see it or not, that good energy never hurts. »
Amy Freeze had always heard throwing drinks at bars and supper clubs, it all comes down to gratitude. A tap, a nod, a silent thank you to the bartender. “I like the idea of toasting your past, along with your future. Sure. I poured one for a mate. We all have, right? The shot tap means so many things different for different people and that’s what makes it truly unique and loved by so many people.”
Emily Milquet, the owner of Manor on Main, a supper club in Wausaukee about three hours north of Milwaukee, admits she doesn’t know why people do it, but liked the internet’s explanation of respect from the bar.
So she thought about it a bit more and came up with this explanation:
“Well, when I take a picture, I usually clap and tap everyone’s shot glass to include them and thank them,” she says. “The reasoning would be banging it on the bar would be the same as saying kudos to the establishment.”
Hmm. It still seems uncertain to me, so I widened my search for answers, and apparently it’s not just a Wisconsin tradition.
Diane Dowland, who once owned Monkey Bar in Milwaukee and now lives in Arizona, sees it out west, too.
“I saw both: the one tap and the double tap. I was told that the double tap is one for the bartender, one for someone who is no longer with us. In Wisconsin, you shoot with the bartender, so that’s your “kudos to the bartender”. In states like Arizona, where the bartender is not legally allowed to drink behind the bar, the single tap is a frequent acknowledgment for whoever serves you the drink, as they cannot share with you.”
By the way, Dowland says a bartender from Wisconsin is practically a celebrity in Arionza.
“’Can you drink while you work? Inconceivable’ and ‘how are you even able to count your drawer at the end?’ I tell them that the main requirement when hiring a bartender in Wisconsin is that they can manage their alcohol. Even more than how they look in TikTok leggings or if they have a boob job. Weird!”
But the most stoic explanation comes from former Seattle bartender Jonny Cragg, who served drinks all over the world. Unfortunately, he remains puzzled.
“Short answer: I have no idea,” he says. “Longer speculative answer: it’s a statement of intent, a commitment to self-harm in the name of hedonism.”
So this is it. Somehow. The answer: no one really knows. Bottom up!