Well Drinks at Bars: Understanding, Ordering, and Mixing

Stepping up to the bar and enjoying a beverage can be an enjoyable outing, but mastering the terminology used by bartenders can be puzzling. One expression regularly heard is “well drink”.

key takeaway
A well drink is a cost-effective way for bar and restaurant goers to enjoy an alcoholic beverage. It’s essential to be conscious of the lower-quality components used in these cocktails, as this can bring about a lackluster taste and potency that may differ from other types of liquor.

So, what exactly is a well drink? In this article, we will provide all the information you need to know about these drinks – and a few facts that may surprise you as well!

Understanding the Basics of Well Drinks

Well drinks, also known as rail drinks, house drinks, or call drinks is a basic mixed beverage that is made with inexpensive, standard liquors and mixers. These drinks are usually served in a standard serving size and are commonly used to quench thirst and provide a quick buzz.

The term “well” is common bar and restaurant lingo that refers to the location where these bottles are stored, typically at the center of the bar, near the bartender.

Well drinks are typically made with ingredients prepped by a bartender or barback that are readily available at most bars and restaurants. The most common liquors used in call drinks include vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, tequila, and brandy. These liquors are combined with mixers like cola, tonic water, lemon-lime soda, or fruit juice to create a refreshing and satisfying drink.

Ordering a Well Drink at a Bar

When ordering a well drink at a bar or pub, it’s important to be specific about the type of liquor you want in your drink. For example, instead of just ordering a “well drink”, you could say “I’d like a well vodka tonic”.

If you’re not sure what to order, ask the bartender for recommendations. This shows that you value their expertise and allows them to make a suggestion based on their experience and the ingredients they have available.

Before ordering well drinks at a bar, take a moment to check the menu or ask the bartender about the selection. If a specific liquor is not available, be open to the bartender’s suggestions for substitutes. Let the bartender know your preference for the drink’s sweetness or strength to ensure they make a rail drink that meets your tastes.

As a side note, if you ever order bottle service, just know you’re typically paying for premium liquor and not the house or well liquor.

What are the Secrets of Well Drinks that are not commonly known?

Well Drinks are not Always the Cheapest Option: In many cases, Well Drinks are thought of as the most cost-effective pick at a bar. However, that is not always true – the expense of such a cocktail can vary depending on the spirit employed, the mixer, and where you’re located. Before deciding on a well drink, it’s recommended to enquire about pricing with the bartender to ensure you get great value for your money.

Well Drinks can be Customized: Contrary to common thinking, it is possible to tailor Well Drinks to suit your own personal taste. If there’s a particular spirit or mixer that you’d like included, just ask the bartender and they can make it for you.

Well Drinks are not always the Same: Each bar has its own interpretation of Well Drinks meaning the components and taste can differ quite considerably from one to the other. Before ordering, it might be sensible to ask the bartender what ingredients they use in their call drinks.

Advantages of Choosing Well Drinks

Rail drinks offer great value for money, as their constituent components are generally more basic and less expensive than their more upmarket or call counterparts. This makes them an attractive selection for those seeking to watch their expenditure, yet still, be able to partake in a beverage or two.

Furthermore, these drinks are likely to be found in the POS for most bars so bartenders can always make your drink request. This will enable you to enjoy one anywhere without needing to hunt for a particular label or variety of alcoholic beverages.

Disadvantages of Well Drinks

A primary downside to well drinks is their inferior ingredients. Generally consisting of basic liquors and mixers, these beverages do not enjoy the same quality as more expensive selections, leading to a less desirable flavor and overall experience.

Additionally, they usually carry an ABV lower than other libations, which can be an issue for those seeking a more potent effect. This can make it challenging to control how much one consumes.

Mixing Well Drinks

When making a call drink, the key is to combine liquors with the right type of mixer. Ingredients like soda, orange juice, and tonic water are all commonly featured in these combinations. If you want to emulate a professional touch, you should have an understanding of which mixers work best with certain types of libations.

Common Call Drink Recipes

There are many traditional recipes that are easy to follow at home or make at a bar; some examples below include rum and coke, gin and tonic, vodka soda, or vodka cranberry.

Rum and Coke

For those seeking an exciting twist on rum, try whipping up a Rum and Coke for a truly unique experience. This simple blend provides a delightful yet light flavor that’s sure to be enjoyed by all.


  • 1½ oz. Rum
  • 2 oz. Cola or Diet Cola
  • Ice Cubes
  • Optional Garnish: Lime Wedge or Lemon Slice


  1. Begin by filling a highball glass up with ice cubes.
  2. Pour in the rum and cola or diet cola afterwards. Stir gradually with a bar spoon to combine everything together nicely.
  3. To finish off your drink, add optional garnishes such as lime wedges for some extra citrusy flavor or lemon slices for an added refreshing taste!

Gin and Tonic

For those seeking a bit of pizazz with their gin, why not try a Gin and Tonic? This classic brew offers an invigorating flavor.


  • 1½ oz. Gin
  • 2 oz. Tonic Water
  • Ice Cubes
  • Optional Garnish: Lime Wedge or Cucumber Slice


  1. Start by adding a few ice cubes into a highball glass.
  2. Pour in the gin and tonic water afterwards. Stir carefully with a bar spoon to combine everything together nicely.
  3. For an extra zing, add optional garnishes such as lime wedges for some added citrusy flavor or cucumber slices for a cool and refreshing taste! Now you’re ready to enjoy!

Vodka Soda

Try a vodka soda if you’re looking for something unique with your favorite brand of vodka. This simple concoction is light and offers a delightful flavor that’s sure to please all.


  • 1½ oz. Vodka
  • 2 oz. Soda Water or Club Soda
  • Ice Cubes
  • Optional Garnish: Lemon, Lime, or Orange Wedge


  1. Fill a highball glass with ice cubes.
  2. Pour in the vodka, followed by the soda water or club soda. Stir gently with a bar spoon to combine.
  3. Add optional garnishes of your choice (lemon, lime, or orange wedge).

Vodka Cranberry

Experience the unique and delicious taste of a Vodka Cranberry! This mix is sure to tantalize all palates and leave you savoring its delightful flavor.


  • 1½ oz. Vodka
  • 2 oz. Cranberry Juice
  • Ice Cubes
  • Optional Garnish: Lime Wedge or Orange Slice


  1. Get your night started by adding some ice cubes into a highball glass.
  2. Pour in the vodka and cranberry juice afterward. Stir evenly with a bar spoon to mix everything together nicely.
  3. To bring the perfect finish to your drink, add optional garnishes such as a lime wedge for some added citrusy flavor or orange slices for an uplifting burst of sweetness! Now you’re ready to sit back, sip and enjoy!

These are just a few examples. Here’s a list of popular well drinks.


What is the difference between a well drink and a call drink?

A call drink is a type of alcoholic beverage that is made with a specific brand of liquor, rather than the standard, lower-priced options that are used in well drinks.

Can well drinks be made with different mixers?

Yes, well drinks can be made with different mixers. Simply ask the bartender to make your well drink with the mixer of your choice.

Are well drinks always made with the same type of liquor?

No, well drinks are not always made with the same type of liquor. The type of liquor used will depend on the bar and the bartender.


A well drink is a type of alcoholic beverage made with the most common and inexpensive ingredients a bar has on hand. Well drinks are often made with the standard, lower-priced liquor options and are stored near the bartender in the “well”. They are considered the most affordable option, but the cost can vary depending on the type of liquor used and the bar’s location.

Well drinks can also be customized to your liking and the ingredients and taste can vary from one bar to the next. Ordering a well drink is simple, just tell the bartender what type of liquor you would like in your drink, and they will mix it with the most commonly used mixer for that liquor. Whether you are a seasoned drinker or a beginner, understanding what a house drink is and what to expect can make your bar experience much more enjoyable.


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