Little-known secret — your bartender could also be your guardian angel.

Content creators are going viral for sharing an underground pour: the “angel shot.”

The secret order first gained traction back in 2016 — when a St. Petersburg restaurant coined the “rescue signal” to help women who felt unsafe. (Just before the COVID pandemic dropped a bomb on bars, the covert cocktail was reborn as the “owl shot” in the Sunshine State.)

Fast-forward to August 2022: The hashtag #angelshot has suddenly garnered more than 142 million views on TikTok, with now-viral clips of bartenders and regular bar-goers educating users on how to keep people safe.

One barkeep, who goes by @Call_Me_Cookem on the video-streaming app, explained how ordering an “angel shot” works as a secret request for help.

“An angel shot is a way of asking for help from a bartender, a bouncer, a manager, someone at a restaurant without directly saying it,” he said in the clip with over 387,000 views, explaining that the benefit of talking “in code” can keep the situation from getting worse. “Because in the end, the number one priority is making sure that you’re safe.”

Seasoned bartender Michelle Charlotte — who boasts 3.3 million followers on TikTok — uses her platform as a way to tell stories from her years bartending as well as informational tidbits. She posted her own take on the so-called angel shot, even going so far as to explain that if a customer orders the drink with a “lime,” it means to call the police.

The push for safety in bars comes as nightlife becomes more dangerous — especially for women.

An estimated 25% of American women have experience some form of sexual assault, according to research published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Of those, half were linked to alcohol consumption. And those are “conservative estimates” — since many assaults are not reported to law enforcement, according to RAINN.

If bartenders widely know the code phrase “angel shot,” people could get the help they need in the moment. However, some social media watchdogs have expressed concerns that the newfound viral status of angel shots could have a dark side.

Bartender pouring shots on bar top
The order is meant to be a code phrase for someone who feels unsafe — and bartenders are attempting to educate the general public.
Getty Images/RooM RF

Other TikTokers used the hashtag to mimic what it would be like to order an angel shot, with some putting a more dramatic twist on their fictional videos.

“#pov you ask for angel shot but the bartender doesn’t know what that is,” one clip is captioned.

Garnering two million views, the video shows a confused “bartender” as a young woman asks for an angel shot, forcing her to pull up an explanation of her request on her phone. Then, he asks who the woman is referring to in the “bar,” pulling out a bat from under his makeshift table.

Although more humorous, the clip prompted viewers to shed light on the importance of knowing what an angel shot is.

“Every bartender should know,” one user said under the clip.

“This is a more realistic POV because an angel shot is not known by every bartender,” wrote another.

“I’m terrified that the bartender won’t know what an Angel shot is,” commented someone else with a sad emoji.

“How to get fired as a bartender 101 not knowing what an angel shot is,” said another.

But the dramatized situations that often flood the platform are being met with critique, as people slam creators for romanticizing sexual harassment and becoming “theatrical.”

“TikTok and Instagram really turned the angel shot into a romanticized trope plot and now a genuine system women can use to escape violence is just sh–s and giggles for drama kids on the internet. I hate it here,” tweeted one critic.

However, the criticism doesn’t seem to be impacting the newfound popularity of the code phrase, which social media users have been widely praised as “amazing” and “good to know” with the potential to “save lives.”


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