I was browsing through Here's How (1928), a Prohibition-era collection of cocktail recipes, and found something surprisingly familiar on page 48.

The Swiss Itch

Invented by one James Norton of Princeton and guaranteed to go down with the ease of an elevator:

Place a pinch of salt on the back of the right hand and with the same north paw hold half a lemon between thumb and forefinger. Hold a small glass of Gordon water [that is, gin] in the left hand and follow this sequence: lick the salt, drink the Gordon water and suck the lemon!

The modern audience will recognize this as the classic tequila shot technique, possibly altered by someone heavily invested in lemon orchards. (Half a lemon? I guess you can tell this book was published pre-1929!)

Which came first: the salt-tequila-lime version or the salt-gin-lemon version? Is "James Norton of Princeton" totally apocryphal? How far back can this two-handed maneuver be traced?

1 Answer 1


This article does not reference any date, but says something interesting:

Mexicans have long known that a little sodium chloride on the tongue can help to mollify the fiery flavor that characterizes much of their food. They use salt when downing chile peppers, for example. By the same token, citrus juices of various kinds have long been used to kill the aftertaste of the more potent forms of alcohol [...] Anyway, when tequila came to the U.S., the salt and lime (or lemon) bit came with it.

Further, Stanford University Press Blog states that salt and lime were used to mask bad tequila:

Legend holds that the origin of serving salt and lime with tequila evolved as a response to an early tequila “boom” in the late 19th-century. The unpredicted spike in popularity led to a proliferation of poor quality tequila brands; salt and lemon were used to mask the taste of crudely-made tequila. Unpleasant or not, the ritual remained and soon became a familiar feature throughout Mexican popular culture.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.