Ordering Cocktails

Happy Hour 
Most Happy Hours will have specials on cocktails. The most common specials are a "2 for 1" special, or a lower price on beer and the bar brand of spirits. You'll probably see a sign or be told that beer and well drinks are a certain price, if you ask.

Well Drinks
"The well", or "rail" is the speed rack that the drinks are poured from. It is what the bar stocks to make most of their drinks, and kept handy for the bartender. It isn't what you see on display behind the bar. It is cheaper because it is bought in bulk, doesn't have a fancy bottle, and has probably never had an advertising campaign. It isn't necessarily inferior, but you are not getting the best of spirits either. If you are ordering a cocktail with a soft drink or juices, chances are you won't notice the difference in taste.

Call Drinks 
From the "well", we step up to a "call" drink. This simply means that you name your spirit of choice. A Tanqueray and Tonic is a good example, however at some bars, this may be considered their "top shelf", but at others it may be the well. It just depends on where you hang out.

Premium Drinks 
Premium is the same as "top shelf". It is the best the bar has to offer. This is what you would order most likely for a straight drink, as an example, a Grey Goose Martini. Included are your single malts, some reserves, single barrel bourbons, and extensively filtered vodkas. Be prepared to pay.

Reserve Drinks 
From "top shelf", some bars hold ultra premium stuff. This is rare or vintage. Take out a second mortgage, or be able to afford to drink this.


How would you like that?

  • In the case of a Martini or Manhattan, as examples, you would order one "on the rocks" (over ice) or "straight up" (stirred or shaken over ice and served in a chilled glass). You could also ask for rocks on the side, and hopefully you'll get the same rocks it was made in.
  • Cocktails such as a Pina Colada or Mudslide can be ordered "on the rocks", or "frozen", for a generally weaker but larger slushy type cocktail.
  • Another common term is "neat". It is not chilled and served straight from the bottle. A good bartender will serve it in the appropriate glass.
  • A "mist" is served over crushed ice.

Final Touches 
Most drinks are automatically garnished with the proper accompaniment. Once in awhile it is necessary to specify a garnish. A twist is a slice of lemon rind. It has become common to ask for a "twist of lime" in certain drinks. What you are actually asking for is a "wedge" of lime which, comes complete with the pulp (like what you get in your water.) Anything served with tonic will generally be served with a lime wedge. Martinis are an example of a cocktail that now needs to be specified. The trend is dry (less or no vermouth) and so ordering one dry (which would be garnished with a twist), isn't as common. You are apt to get olives unless you tell your server you prefer a twist. Not all places offer stuffed olives (usually stuffed with bleu cheese.) Please tip your bartender if they made them personally!