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Straight Up, Neat, or On the Rocks: Bar Terminology

Straight Up, Neat, or On the Rocks: Bar Terminology

Bar Terminology

Not sure if you should order your cocktail straight up or on the rocks? View our comprehensive list of barware terminology. 

The list below offers information ranging from techniques, etymology, and history to explanations about why the terms are used and when.

Please feel free to add to or modify our list via email to subject line: terminology

Serving Technique

  • Neat basically a shot, spirit poured straight from the bottle into serving glass, served at room temperature 
  • On the Rocks drink poured and served over ice cubes  FYI 
  • Twist a fruit garnish cut from a lemon peel and twisted above serving glass to express essential oils from the peel


Preparation Technique

  • Straight Up drink ingredients poured over ice into a mixing glass if recipe calls for stirring or a cocktail shaker if recipe calls for shaking, then strained into a serving glass (typically chilled) with no ice
  • Up and Over drink ingredients poured over ice into a mixing glass, stirred, then strained into a serving glass that has ice (dilution and chilling technique)
  • Stir and Strain drink ingredients are chilled and gently mixed
  • Wash serving glass rinsed with spirit
  • Shaking rule of thumb: if a drink contains egg, fruit juice, or cream, it should be shaken vigorously in a cocktail shaker to chill ingredients. When water condensation forms the contents are properly chilled
  • Straining drink is strained from shaker or mixing glass into a serving glass. *use cubed ice to shake, crushed will clog the strainer holes.
  • Stirring drinks are NEVER stirred in the glass they are to be served in. Pour ingredients into a mixing glass and stir with glass or metal rod. If drink requires chilling, use cubed ice (so you do not dilute the drink), stir, then strain into serving glass.
  • Muddling use glass or wood muddler to press fresh ingredients, mint or fruit, in serving glass to extract flavors. Gentle, firm NOT pulverize
  • Building one of the rare opportunities to prepare and serve in a serving glass, serve with a vintage swizzle stick for stirring
  • Layering involves using a spoon inside your serving glass to slowly pour ingredients over, one-by-one, to layer lighter liquids on top of heavier ones


Martini Specific 

  • Dirty olive brine added to drink
  • Dry use less dry Vermouth than standard 50/50
  • Extra Dry serving glass contains either a wash of Vermouth or a bar spoon of Vermouth spirit
  • Perfect Martini and Manhattan term, split normal amount of Vermouth into equal amounts of sweet and dry ("perfectly mixed")


Drink Sizes

  • Shot Drinks typically served "up" in a shot glass, 1.25 to 2.00 oz., served in shot glass, "shooters" Lemon Drop
  • Short Drinks 2.0 oz. to 5.5 oz. Daisy
  • Long Drinks (Tall) 5.5 oz. or more, standard mixed drink with added mixer (not spirit)


  • Alcohol By Volume (ABV)
  • (Base) Spirit the foundation of mixed drinks, a distilled beverage w/no added sugar, has atleast 20% ABV
  • Distilled outcome: alcoholic beverage that is purified and free of any diluting compounds, grains, fruits, veggies in presence of yeast undergo fermentation (breakdown of carbs) and are then distilled FYI the outcome of fermentation is an alcoholic beverage, either wine or beer, if alcoholic beverage is distilled you get liquor spirit
  • Aging the amount of time a distilled beverage is stored
  • Maturation the degree of chemical changes that take place during aging processOak barrels for aging rum
  • Bitters aromatic, herbal compounds primarily bitter taste. 3 most popular:
  1. Angostura from Trinidad
  2. Peychaud’s from New Orleans
  3. Orange
  • Bar Mix sweetened lemon juice or lemon sour mix--lemon juice, sugar, and water lime bar mix--lime juice, sugar, and water
  • Dry Vermouth France association made from blend of white wines and aged for 2-3 years in oak casks. Flavoring agent (Martini) or aperitif (red). After blending, wine is infused w/botanicals and fortified with grape spirits to 19% abv
  • Sweet Vermouth Italy association made from blend of barrel-aged red wines that are infused with aromatics and botanicals and fortified with grape spirits to 16-18% abv
  • Proof US std used to measure the alcohol content of a distilled spirit or liqueur. Equals twice the products alcohol by volume (ABV) at 60°F
  • Absinthe alcoholic drink made from Artemesia absinthium ie grand wormwood and a range of other herbs
  • Botanical relating to plants, substance obtained from a plant and used as an additive
  • Fortify strengthen with alcohol

Drink Types




Cobbler base spirit + sweetener

Use straw

Cocktail spirit + sugar + water + bitters Stirred
Collins a fizz that is shaken + strained

serve in tall glass

*typically has ice



Daisy specialized sour with Orange cordial 

Pre-1900 raspberry syrup

Post 1900 Grenadine

Fix "fancy sour" short, individual punch 

serve with fruit garnish

Pineapple syrup

Fizz spirit + citrus + sugar + carbonated water

shaken and strained

Lengthened sour

Flip spirit + sugar + egg


Julep spirit + sugar + mint

American south/Kentucky Derby

serve in silver cup w/straw

Nog spirit + sugar + egg + cream


Posset spiced combo of wine or ale + milk + egg
Punch spirit + sugar + citrus + water + tea or spices

COLD spirits BEFORE water

HOT water BEFOR spirits

Sling STRONG toddy, equal parts spirit + carbonated water + touch of sugar

bittered sling = cocktail

Morning drink

Smash spirit + sugar + mint Small julep
Sour base spirit + citrus + sugar


spirit + sugar + citrus + bitters + crushed ice built in glass + mixed w/swizzle stick
Toddy spirit + sugar + still water

Served hot w/nutmeg

Evening drink

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  • Jennifer Benson
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