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Liquid measurements can be a tricky thing. When baking or cooking, you use teaspoons and tablespoons. Sometimes, you measure by the fluid ounce. But when it comes to alcohol (or at least hard liquor), a different measurement comes into play: the shot.

But how do you measure a shot at home? Even if you have shot glasses at home, the measurements may not be completely accurate. Many shot glasses don’t measure too precisely, so you may get different amounts of alcohol from shot glass to shot glass. Luckily, you can use basic measuring spoons to measure out a shot. So how many tablespoons in a shot?

What’s a Shot?

As you probably know, a “shot” is the standard measurement for hard liquor. In most of the United States, a shot of liquor is 1.5 ounces. And when it comes to defining one alcoholic drink, a 1.5 oz shot is the alcoholic drink equivalent of 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine.

These measurements might seem arbitrary. But each one has 14 grams or 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol. This is the amount of pure alcohol considered to be one alcoholic drink, at least in the United States. Of course, some beers, wines, and liquors may have slightly more or less alcohol. But these drink measurements are a good general way to keep track of your intake.

That being said, “one shot” is rarely an exact measurement unit; there are a few shot sizes depending on where you’re drinking. Of course, in many places, a shot is considered to be 1.5 ounces. But in some areas, a shot is considered to be only one ounce of liquor. And occasionally, a shot is defined as being 2 oz. This measurement can be confusing, as some establishments consider a “double shot” to be 2 ounces.

Unless you know the exact capacity of a given shot glass, it’s a good idea to use a more precise measuring tool. Luckily, the humble tablespoon, aka the large measuring spoon, is a great option for measuring precise amounts of alcohol.

How Many Tablespoons in a Shot Glass?

A tablespoon is a measurement that is approximately half of a liquid ounce. If you don’t trust your shot glasses or other drinking vessels to measure accurately, you can measure out a shot with a tablespoon.

Of course, you may run into the unfortunate situation where you don’t have a tablespoon measure and only have smaller measuring spoons. There are three teaspoons in a tablespoon, so you can easily convert tablespoon measures to teaspoon measurements.

Here’s a quick and easy conversion table breaking down each shot measurement into both tablespoons and teaspoons:

  • 1 ounce: 2 tablespoons/6 teaspoons
  • 1.5 ounces: 3 tablespoons/9 teaspoons
  • 2 ounces: 4 tablespoons/12 teaspoons

So your typical, standard 1.5 oz shot is equal to three tablespoons. But as you can see, the number of tablespoons will vary depending on the shot standard you’re using.

What If You Don’t Have Measuring Spoons?

As you can see, measuring spoons are a great way to measure a shot without a shot glass. But what if you don’t have a tablespoon or teaspoon to use as a measuring tool? There are plenty of other things you can use to measure a single shot, half shot, double shot, etc.

Use a Solo Cup

The red plastic party cup is an iconic drinking vessel. But did you know it also includes lines on it to help you measure a shot without a shot glass? The first ridge at the bottom of red solo cups measures exactly one ounce. Of course, that can make it hard to measure out a quarter shot or half shot, but it helps you track how much you’re drinking.

The other lines on this plastic cup will help you keep track of beer and wine as well. The next ridge up from the bottom marks 5 ounces (a standard drink of wine). And the next one marks 12 ounces (a standard drink of beer).

Use a Medicine Cup

A clear plastic medicine cup is great for dosing cough medicine and other liquid medicines. But it’s also a great way to measure a single shot of liquor. The clear plastic cup will have units of measurement printed on the side. Most have a total capacity of one fl oz to 2 fl oz. You can even use them as tiny shot glasses if you want!

Use Water Displacement

This method of measuring shots can be a little complex, but it doesn’t take a long time. You will need two clear plastic cups and a ping pong ball.

If you were to fill a ping pong ball with liquid, it would be almost exactly 1 ounce (the exact measurement is 1.1 fluid ounces). So with this method, we can use the amount of water displaced by the ping pong ball to measure out one fluid ounce.

To start, fill the clear plastic cup half full with water. Mark the level with a permanent marker. Submerge the ball completely and use the marker to mark the new surface level. Fill the cup up to the new line and do this one more time.

Now you should have two lines on the cup, and the space between them is an ounce. Pour out just the amount of water between the lines into a new clear plastic cup. Mark that level, and you have your own measuring cup for a one-ounce single shot.

Free Pour

Most bartenders master the art of the free pour fairly early on in their careers. This technique lets them accurately pour drinks without measuring. Usually, if your bottle has a spout on it (like liquor bottles in bars do), you can get a pour of 1.5 fluid ounces in four seconds. This can take some practice to get right, but it’s a great skill to have!

To practice this, it’s a good idea to have a measuring cup with markings for ounces and half ounces. Pour out a 1.5-ounce shot and see how many seconds it takes. Then try doing this without looking. Check your work each time! You might want to do this in a measuring cup with a pour spout on the end. That way, you can pour the liquor back into the bottle if you don’t want to drink it all at once.

Luckily, you don’t have to be a bartender to learn how to free pour. This video tutorial can show you how.

Make Sure You Measure!

Measuring ingredients is important when you’re cooking, but it might be even more important to measure alcohol when you’re drinking. Especially when it comes to mixed drinks, it’s easy to accidentally drink too much. And luckily, even if you don’t have a set of measuring spoons to measure a shot, chances are good that there’s something in your pantry or medicine cabinet you can use instead.

FAQs

Still have some questions on measuring alcohol without a shot glass? Here are some commonly-asked questions:

How many tablespoons is in a shot glass?

That depends on the one-shot measurement you’re using. In many places, 1.5 fl oz is a standard shot. However, a 1 fl oz measurement is also often used. In some places, a shot is 2 ounces. A tablespoon is about half of a fluid ounce. So there are 3 tablespoons in a 1.5 oz shot, 2 tablespoons in a 1 oz shot, and 4 tablespoons in a 2 oz shot.

How many spoons makes a shot?

Don’t use regular spoons to measure alcohol, as spoons come in many sizes. But if you don’t have tablespoons, you can measure out alcohol in teaspoons. Here’s how many teaspoons are in each shot measurement:

1 ounce: 6 tablespoons
1.5 ounces: 9 tablespoons
2 ounces: 12 tablespoons

Is 3 tablespoons a shot?

Yes, if you’re using the 1.5 oz standard shot measurement.

Is a tablespoon equal to a shot glass?

Not quite. A tablespoon is about half of a fluid ounce. If your shot glass measures 1 oz, it would be equal to two tablespoons. There are 3 tablespoons in a 1.5 oz shot and 4 tablespoons in a 2 oz shot.