Ask Your Bartender: Murphy

See more General

Gee, look, it’s six in the morning and I can’t sleep a wink. I’ve gotten some interesting emails through the site lately and I thought I’d share one of them.

By the way, I love getting email through here, so keep ’em coming.

Hey Nartender

I am a bartender in Wildwood, NJ. Someone asked me where the term Murphy (where you get the last shot in the bottle for free) came from. Please write me back.


Hey Dana

I did some research into your question. I’ve never heard that term or practice myself, so I talked to some other East Coast bartenders and searched the internet. No person or website I consulted had ever heard of this, so it might be a pretty local practice, giving away the last shot in a bottle and calling it a Murphy.

I would guess that the term “Murphy” is a generic kind of ethnic slur directed at the Irish, like “Mulligan” is in golf.

So, has anyone else heard of this? It’s totally unheard of here on the West Coast, apparently.

7 Replies to “Ask Your Bartender: Murphy”

  • Bar boy says:

    Well Cassandra, marrying bottles(pouring from one bottle to another, even if it’s the same stuff, is illegal. In all 50 states and many other countries.

  • Michael Schneider says:

    I would make mention of this tradition, ” the spider,” which I saw practiced as a kid in my father’s drug store in Chicago. No one elsewhere seemed to know of it. He never got rid of a common pre-war tradition of a small marble top bar/soda fountain in the front of his compact store. And it was a shot and a beer kind of place with the last pour out of the bottle called the spider and it was free. You dare not charge a customer for it.

  • Cassandra says:

    I tended Bar for several years late 69 and 70’s. The Spider was taught to me.Also the Term Spider Spotters.Those were the ones that would peruse the bottles hoping to spot a spider. I stopped them by Pouring some new into the old to bring it to above a Drink Level. Fool me once Shame on You,Fool me twice Shame on Me. Fool me 3 times Enemy Action.

  • Leslie Hulberg says:

    It is a practice in Northeastern Pennsylvania. If you’re the one receiving the last shot in the bottle, it is free. Of course that is probably based on the assumption that you will be having another or you had one previously.

  • Richard says:

    The Murphy part I do not know of . But the last shot in any bottle in the heart and mid-west is called the spider. If you shout “I got the spider” it is traditional that it’s free,and the bartender would pour a full shot out of a new bottle on top of it .

  • Michael Ward says:

    While never hearing of this tradition exactly as stated, I have run across something similar. In Baltimore, MD as well as in southern Florida, there used to be the tradition that the person who bought the last shot of Louis XIII cognac got to keep the Baccarat crystal decanter it comes in. I remember this being the tradition in numerous restaurants in which I worked. Over the years it has faded from practice as the cost of Louis XIII (and other luxury spirits) has skyrocketed—so few places carry these items anymore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *