What the Angel Shot Is and How You Can Use It

A trip to a bar or restaurant should be fun and relaxing — a way to unwind after the workweek or a way to get to know a date. While most nights out at bars are safe, some patrons, particularly women, have experienced drugging, sexual assault, and other threats to their safety. Bars and patrons should take precautions to try to prevent these troubling incidents. 

For the past few years, bars have tried out different codes to help people avoid potentially dangerous situations, and the angel shot code has become one of the better known.  So, how do you use the angel shot if you need help, and what can you do if it doesn’t work?

What Is the Angel Shot Code?

The angel shot code is a series of drink orders that tip off staff that you need help.  They sound like fancy alcohol shots, but in reality, they’re codes that let the staff know you’re having a problem with someone.  That could be your date or a random person in the bar who won’t leave you alone or who is giving off very bad vibes.

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The angel shot was first used in the U.S. by the Iberian Rooster, a restaurant in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 2017.  The origin of the code has been attributed to a similar code by a British pub in which patrons could ask for “Rachelle or Jennifer,” to a code seen at a Hooters in South Africa, and to the “Ask for Angela” campaign in the U.K.

What Do the Variations Mean?

The angel shot itself indicates you need help, and there are three variations that specify the type of help you need.  

  • In most cases, an angel shot neat means you want the staff to escort you to your car.  
  • An angel shot with ice or on the rocks means you want the staff to call a cab or rideshare service for you.  
  • An angel shot with lime means you need the staff to call the police.  
  • One variation that’s shown up in the media is that an angel shot neat could mean that you want a security guard to monitor the situation and that an angel shot with ice means you want someone to walk you to your car. 

If you see a note about the angel shot at the specific bar you’re at, use the variations printed on that paper, as those are what the staff have been trained to look out for.

How Do You Use the Code?

Using the code is as simple as ordering.  If you feel safer “ordering” away from the person who’s making you uncomfortable, see if you can go up to the bar (if you were at a table) or go to the other end of the bar if you were already sitting there.  Wait until the bartender is at the other end, and try to make an excuse to go talk to them where they are instead of waiting for them to come back to where you’re sitting.  If you’re unable to get away from the other person, try to signal for a staff member to come over.

How Do Bars Let People Know About the Code?

Letting customers know about the code hasn’t been that easy, although social media has certainly helped spread the word in the past few years.  Many bars post the code in the women’s restroom, some post it in all restrooms and some train their bartenders to keep an eye out and proactively ask patrons if they’d like an angel shot.  In addition to bars posting the information, patrons may also know the code from social media or from county or university programs meant to prevent sexual assault.

While it may seem as simple as posting a piece of paper on a wall, the problem is that people need to be able to use the code without tipping off the person from whom they need protection — and they need to see it in the first place.  Sure, post the paper in the women’s restroom, but what if the woman who needs help doesn’t go to the restroom, or what if the person who needs help is actually a man or is nonbinary?  Each establishment varies in how they let patrons know if they use the code or a variation.  If you’re not sure if the bar you’re at uses the code, and you need help, try using it anyway.

The angel shot is most often associated with women, but men and nonbinary people may need help as well.  Some bars use “angel shot” as a request for help from anyone, while others have created specific codes for men.  The Drinks Business reported in 2022 that one bar created a “Johnny Depp shot” for men that used similar variations to the angel shot.

What Can You Do if the Code Doesn’t Work?

If the code doesn’t work, you’ll want to find some way to get a message to a staff member or to talk to a staff member away from the person you’re trying to avoid.  Parade magazine asked about this as the code still isn’t ubiquitous.  Your options include pretending there’s something wrong with your order so that you can go up to the bar by yourself to tell the staff about it; pretending to head to the restroom so you can pass by a staff member and mention you need help; passing a note on a napkin to staff; or, if the bad date or person you’re trying to get away from goes to the restroom, taking that opportunity to alert the staff.

In today’s world, you can’t be too cautious about who you speak to or meet up with.  If you’re going to meet someone at a bar or restaurant, check them out first using Spokeo’s People Search or Reverse Phone Lookup.  It’s always possible they’re who they say they are, but it’s still a good idea to check for clues that they’re cheating and to look for potentially problematic public records.  Your safety comes first.

Disclaimer: Spokeo gathers information from public sources, which may not be complete, comprehensive, accurate or even up-to-date. This service is not a substitute for your own due diligence, especially if you have concerns about a person’s criminal history. Spokeo does not verify or evaluate each piece of data, and makes no warranties or guarantees about the information offered.


BBC – ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign gets global attention

Cronkite News – Tempe bar introduces ‘Angel Shots’ code to promote safety

The Drinks Business – Bar introduces ‘Johnny Depp Shot’ for men who feel unsafe

HuffPost Women – Florida Restaurant Offers Special ‘Angel Shot’ To Help Women Escape Bad Dates

HuffPost Women – This Bar Has Your Back If Your Tinder Date Turns Bad

Instagram – Learn about the ‘angel shot’ code and take control of your well-being at bars and restaurants. Knowledge is key!

Parade – How to Order an ‘Angel Shot’ and What Message It Gives the Bartender

The Standard – Angel Shot’: How a secret code word keeps women safe at the club, bar

Times of San Diego – Opinion: How an ‘Angel Shot’ Could Prevent Alcohol-Fueled Sexual Assault

WAMC – Sexual Assault Prevention Program Debuts In New Paltz

Handbook of Interpersonal Violence and Abuse Across the Lifespan –  Bars as a Drinking Context for Sexual Aggression

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