The New York Nightlife Guide: How to order drinks

How many times have you been at a bar and had no clue what to order? Or, as in most cases, you only know of one drink and that’s your go to “safety” drink. As it seems, these are issues almost everyone encounters. Knowing how to order drinks at a bar, nightclub or restaurant can be confusing at times but once it has been understood, it really makes a person standout from the crowd.


The New York Nightlife Guide: How to order drinks


To stand out from the crowd, knowing the basics of how to order a drink is key. Although many of us wouldn’t think there is a specific way of doing this, there actually is! Ordering your next round the right way can not only make you look very knowledgeable but also make for a happy bar tender and the right drinks for you.

PART I: The Basics

Ordering Drinks

Next time you order drinks start by naming the liquor first. Any mixed drink must always start with the liquor first.

Example: Captain and Coke, Jack and Coke, Vodka Red Bull, Vodka and Cranberry, Rum Ricky…

Why?: If you ask any bartender or read up on recipes, the liquor is always poured first. After the liquor the juice or soft drink is poured-in to mix everything consistently.


When you want to get fancy, name the brand first.

If you have experience with different types of liquors and prefer one to the other, name the brand first.

Example:  If you like Stoli Vodka and Cranberry Juice, you would say “Stoli and Cranberry”.  Remember keep it simple.

Why?: Naming the brand of liquor first avoids confusion between you and the bartender. It also speeds up getting your drink and saves you from being embarrassed in front of other people when the bartender looks at you with a puzzled look.


You got your drink, but its not the way you like it? 

As the old saying goes, if you want something done right you got to do it yourself. This applies to every drink you order, as bartenders don’t all make drinks the exact same way. If you want something done a particular way make sure you ask for it. Don’t assume anything.

Example: Lemon Drop Martini. A great drink but with a plethora of possible combinations that will get your head spinning. (See Below)

Popular Bartender Combinations for a Lemon Drop Martini:

  1. Citrus Vodka, Triple Sec, Lemon Juice and Sugar.
  2. Citrus Vodka, Triple Sec, Sweet and Sour Mix, and Sugar.
  3. Vodka, Triple Sec, Lemon Juice and Sugar.
  4. Vodka, Triple Sec, Sweet and Sour Mix and Sugar.

Why?: Well just from the above I am sure you get the picture..


Now that you have the basics for how to order a drink, we are going to get in a little more fancy and technical. After all, do you want to be that person who stands well at a bar or the person hiding in the back? See here for recommendations on what to get!


Part II: Types of Drinks

In every bar, nightclub and restaurant drinks vary so make sure you are aware of what you are getting. Here are a few types of drinks you may expect to receive at a bar.


1. A well drink is a drink made with the cheapest liquor available. If you do not specify what kind of brand you want, they will give you the cheapest one. Happy hour specials are almost always well drinks.

Example: If you order a Gin and Tonic, you get the cheapest Gin and Tonic. You do not get the Tanqueray No. 10 and Tonic.

2. A call drink is a drink made with the liquor you want. When you are ready to order, you say or in this case, call for the drink to be used.

Example: Stoli and Cranberry, Bacardi and Coke, Tanqueray and Tonic…

Warning: Always make sure that if you are calling for a fancy and expensive drink that you are ready to pay for it. When you use the best kind of liquor they have, your drink becomes a premium drink. (See more on premium drinks below)

3. A premium drink is pretty much self-explanatory. These are the top-notch brands and best drinks available. These are made with expensive liquor and a few more garnishments that make them stand out. These are also known as top-shelf drinks as they are held at the top for clients to see.

Example: Grey Goose and Tonic, Patron, Tanqueray No 10…

4. Draught beer, draft beer or tap beer, is beer drawn from a keg. A keg is a simple metal container with lots of beer. Woot!

Example: Coors Light, Budweiser, Heineken, pretty much all beer brands can come in a keg with the exception of specialty beers.


Part III: The Special Requests



When you are feeling good and a little overheated, cool down by having your next drink “chilled”. A chilled drink is simply a cold drinks. This term is typically used when ordering shots.

Example: A chilled shot of tequila or a chilled shot of whiskey.



So when you are hitting the stronger liquors or simply need something to go along with your shot, get a “back”. A back is a chaser. A chaser is used to ease the taste of a particular liquor. A back or chaser is usually used when taking a straight shot of liquor. Back or chasers include water, soda or juice.

Example: You want a shot of Patron and you want to chase it with a glass of Orange Juice. You would simply order it as, “a shot of Patron with a OJ back.”



Getting something “Dirty” just means adding olive juice. It is typically used in fancier drinks such as gin martinis and vodka martinis.

Example: Dirty Martini



Double means double the liquor. In other words, two shots of liquor in one drink.

Example: A double shot of tequila means two shots of tequila served in one big shot glass.



Dry means with dry vermouth and it’s used in gin martinis and vodka martinis.

Example: Dry Martini



Frozen means blended. Don’t get this confused with ice. As always, don’t assume anything! If you want a blended margarita order a “Frozen margarita” or if you want ice order a “Margarita on the rocks”

Example: Frozen Margarita


Neat” or “Straight Up”

Neat or, as some call it, Straight Up is a drink that has no ice and is composed on just the liquor. It is also served in a regular glass and is designed for sipping slowly.

Example: A Scotch neat, is Scotch by itself and in an glass.


On the Rocks”

One of the most widely used and confused terms. On the rocks simply means with ice. Most people believe on the rocks is a drink with salt or a frozen drink, it is not!

Example: Whiskey on the rocks, Margarita on the rocks…



Widely used in gin martinis and vodka martinis, Sweet means with sweet vermouth.

Example: Sweet Martini



Tall means in a longer glass. Tall drinks are perfect for nights when you want to go easy on the alcohol. If you order a tall drink, you get the same amount of liquor, but with more juice or soda and hence reducing its impact. Sometimes its good to be sober!

Example: Tall Jack and Coke, Tall Gin and Tonic…


Top Shelf”

As previously stated, a premium drink is a “Top shelf” drink. To shelf drinks are the best at the bar.

Example: Top Shelf Gin and Tonic, Top Shelf Rum and Coke…



Up means chilled and strained into a martini glass. Widely used if you want a martini without vermouth (a gin up or vodka up).

Example: Stoli Up, Absolut Up…


With a Twist”

Lets get fancy and add a twist. With a twist simply means add a lemon or lime twist.


With Salt”

Next time before thinking on the rocks means salt, just simply say with salt. This adds a unique twist to your drink and coats the tip with salt. With salt is with salt. Keep it simple once again.


That is all there is to drinks. Ordering the right type and kind of drink varies from person to person so experiment and try new drinks. If you do not like a particular drink simply move on to the next one. When you come across that particular drink you must always have, do yourself a favor and make it fancy. Try a call drink. Once that has gone by, get fancy and treat yourself to  (or ask the guy next to you) a premium drink.

Going out and enjoying great night at a restaurant, club, or bar should be fun and what better way to kick it off than with a drink!