The next time you've got a bunch of hot sorority girls set up to do a round of shots, and the conversation starts dragging (as happens when you're hanging with drunk sorority girls...) bring up this little bit of bar trivia: the birth of the shot glass.
While in Tequila, Mexico last week, I had a chance to meet Juan Domingo Beckmann, direct descendant of Jose Cuervo and Executive Director of Casa Cuervo. (Talk about winning the sperm lottery...)
We were tasting their newest Reserva de la Familia (post and recipes coming this week), with Franz Hajnal, a Maestro Tequielero. Which is like a sommelier, but for tequila. (I think a career change may be in order...)
Franz had a black horn around his neck, similar to the one in the really bad pic I took above, only with silver decorations. Juan Domingo explained that Tequieleros use the horn to taste tequila, just like sommeliers use their little silver cup.
Why a horn? The horn was the first "caballito," what they call a shot glass in Mexico. And here, according to what I can remember Juan Domingo saying through my tequila-induced fog, is how that horn evolved into the modern day shot glass...
Hundreds of years ago, the caballeros, or cowboys, would head to the bar after a long day of caballero-ing to drink tequila. Tucked into their belt, they would have
these small horns, and before leaving, they would ask the barkeeper to pour them a "caballito," a little one for the horse. Our version of one for the road. (This was of course, before the Madres Against Drunk Riding got organized.)
The caballito soon became popular with non-caballeros, but since it's hard to balance a horn on the bar, they cut the bottom off to make it more stable. Then other materials came into play. Like the hollowed-out gourd there to the right of the horn. Then a ceramic one, similar to an espresso cup, complete with a little handle. Finally a glass version of the caballito came about, with a shape similar to the horn that started it all, long, narrow and tapered, but with a flat bottom to allow it to stand on the bar. Should you need both hands for some reason, while drinking an ounce of tequila.
True aficionados still enjoy tequila out of these glasses... and since they tend to sip and savor, rather than shoot and boot... "shot glass" doesn't exactly fit. So they stuck to caballito, the little one for the horse.
This knowledge won't exactly win you Jeopardy, but it might be enough to get those sorority girls interested. But then again, with tequila flowing, does it really matter?