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Neat, Straight Up, and On the Rocks: How to Order a Cocktail

Neat, Straight Up, and On the Rocks: How to Order a Cocktail

Knowing the rules and the proper terminology can make you seem like a cocktail expert even if you aren’t. Before approaching the bar, always know exactly what you want and give your order to the bartender with confidence, or risk looking like you just turned 21 five minutes ago.

Neat, Straight Up, and On the Rocks: How to Order a Cocktail (Slideshow)

Rule number one: Never order a cranberry vodka. At least not like that. When ordering a cocktail, name the alcohol, then the chaser, or you’ll look like a freshman in college who didn’t know what else to order. If you want a specific type of liquor, say so. And to make it fancy, add “with a twist.”

Here’s how you’d order it: “I’d like a Stoli-cranberry with a twist, please.” You just ordered a cocktail with Stoli vodka and a lemon peel, also known as a Cape Cod.

When ordering, though, be careful not to throw around cocktail terms like “neat,” “straight up,” and “on the rocks” without knowing what they mean. If you do, you might end up with a drink you didn’t want and an unamused bartender.

For a drink made without ice or mixer, you’d order it “neat,” and it would be served to you in an Old Fashioned cocktail glass. So, you might say, “I’d like a bourbon, neat.” To order a martini “up” or “straight up,” means you’d like it chilled. A cocktail that is poured over ice is “on the rocks.”

For more drink terminology and how to use it when ordering a cocktail, read on. And don’t forget to tip your bartender!


How to order…

“I’d like a chilled Maker's Mark.”

What it means…

You’d like your shot to be cold.


How to order…

“I’d like a dirty martini.” OR “I'd like a martini — extra dirty.”

What it means…

You’d like olive juice and olives in your martini.

Click here for more of Neat, Straight Up, and On the Rocks: How to Order a Cocktail

Haley WIllard is The Daily Meal's assistant editor. Follow her on Twitter @haleywillrd.

Neat or Straight Up? A Guide to Commonly Misused Bartending Terms

Classic cocktails have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. But with the renewed interest in old-fashioned drinks like martinis, sazeracs, and, well. old-fashioneds comes an uptick in customers using and misusing common bartending terms.

But never fear! We threw together this handy bartending terminology guide to help you avoid these embarrassing mixology mishaps. Whiskey nerds, take note: if you've ever ordered your Maker's Mark "straight up" expecting a straight pour into a glass. keep reading.

Wicked Willie's Sports Grill

At the best sports bar at the Lake of the Ozarks, we have a fully stocked bar that has everything you need to help you cheer on or celebrate the wins of your favorite teams. From beer and wine to specialty cocktail drinks, Wicked Willie's has it all. While we have many delicious specialty cocktail drinks, you can always order "off the menu." Here are a few helpful tips the next time you order a cocktail from Lake of the Ozarks' favorite sports bar.

Ordering A Neat Drink

Neat is used to order a drink that is served with no ice or mixer. This is a straight pour or liquor into the glass and is served at room temperature.

What to order neat? Whiskey, brandy and scotch are often ordered neat, as many people prefer them at room temperature with nothing else added to them.

Ordering a Straight Up Or Up Drink

Up and Straight Up are usually used to describe a drink that is chilled with ice by either shaking or stirring and then strained into a glass.

What to order straight up or up? Most martinis are ordered Straight Up.

Ordering An On The Rocks Drink

A drink that is poured over ice is called on the rocks.

What to order on the rocks? Margaritas are commonly made on the rocks.

Ordering a Chilled Drink

Straight Up and Chilled are essentially the same thing, however, chilled is used instead of straight up when ordering shots of liquor. This avoids the confusion of whether you want the drink straight out the bottle and unchilled, or if you wanted it chilled.

What to order chilled? Any shot of hard liquor can be ordered chilled. However, it should be noted that chilling a liquor will add a little bit of water to it.

Back - A back is something non-alcoholic to follow a drink. It is also called a chaser. It is often used when a person orders a shot of straight liquor, either chilled or neat, and wants a water, soda or juice chaser to go with the shot.

Dirty - Dirty is often associated with Martinis, and it means that olive juice was added to the Martini.

Dry or Very Dry - This refers to the amount of Vermouth in a cocktail, specifically with a Martini. Dry has some Vermouth and very dry has almost none.

With A Twist - When bartenders add a twist, they will add a thin strip of citrus peel to the drink, usually a lemon twist.

Olives, Onions & Wedges - When ordering a Martini, specific if you want olives, cocktails onions or a twist. When you specify if you want olives or cocktail onions, specify how many you would like ("2 onions please"). For other drinks, you can ask for a lemon or lime wedge.

How To Order A Cocktail

When ordering a cocktail, it is best to specify which liquor first, and if you want a certain brand, say that instead. Example, rum and Coke or Jack and Coke. If you order a type of alcohol, as opposed to a brand, it will be made as a well drink. You name the type of alcohol first because when bartenders make the drink, they will add the liquor first, followed by everything else.

The next time you visit the best sports bar and grill at the lake of the Ozarks, don't forget about Happy Hour! The best Happy Hour at the Lake of the Ozarks is Monday through Friday from 3:00 - 6:00 p.m. and features specials on domestic bottled beers, house wine and well & call drinks. On Wednesdays, Happy Hour drink prices are from 3:00 p.m. to midnight and we also have $2 off all wings, 1/2 lb P&E shrimp for $7 and 3 sliders for $6 and 3 wicked sliders for $7.

Neat, Straight Up, On The Rocks: Bar Banter To Know

In this series we decipher the lexicon of bartending. First up: the basics of ordering booze.

Every industry has its own jargon. When alcohol is involved, there are subtle differences between up, straight up and neat now is the time to get your bartending terms straight while you're still clear-headed.

Here are the basics to know when ordering your drinks:

What it is: A liquor served in a small shot glass without ice toss it back all at once.
Say: “Two shots of Tequila with lime and salt, please.”

On the rocks
What it is: A spirit or a cocktail that is poured over ice cubes in a straight-walled, flat-bottomed glass. Some liquors, like blended Scotches, gin and high-proof Bourbon benefit from the chilling and dilution that ice gives to open up its flavors and aromas.
Say: “Bourbon on the rocks, please.”

What it is: Two ounces of a single spirit served in an old-fashioned glass that’s meant to be sipped—no chilling, no ice or any other mixers. Usually used on Whiskey or Brandy, both commonly drunk at room temperature.
Say: “I’ll have a Whiskey neat, please.”

What it is: An alcoholic drink stirred or shaken with ice, and then strained into a stemmed cocktail glass.
Say: “A Manhattan up, thanks!”

Straight up
What it is: Here’s where the confusion begins. ‘Straight up’ can be used to mean the same as ‘neat’ when it comes to spirits usually drunk at room temperature, but is also used interchangeable with ‘up’ if it’s understood that it’s a drink meant to be served cold.
Say: “Ketel One straight up,” for a chilled vodka and Vermouth, or “Wild Turkey straight up,” for a Bourbon neat.

Rachel Tan is the Associate Digital Editor at the MICHELIN Guide Digital. A former food magazine writer based in Singapore, she has a degree in communications for journalism but is a graduate of the school of hard knocks in the kitchen. She writes to taste life twice.


What’s the difference between OTR or Neat? How is straight up different from on the rocks? This lingo has been around for a long time, however for a lot of people, the difference between these styles can be down right confusing or misunderstood.

Served Neat

Neat is the most used term. This means that a spirit is directly poured into a glass (preferably a OTR "on the rocks" or DOF "double old fashion" Glass). It’s similar to a shot, but the glass makes a huge difference in the sipping experience. Neat drinks are approx two ounces, not chilled, there are no extra ingredients (even ice) and no, you can’t make a white russian neat. Scotch and whiskey are the most popular liquors to drink neat. Higher-quality are usually served neat

Typically describes an alcoholic beverage that is iced and is shaken or stirred. Many martinis are served up. Before this type of beverage is served, the drink is strained, and normally poured into a martini style glass. I like to serve my margaritas Up and it saves on the ice melting and diluting the beverage.

On The Rocks

You all know what rocks are correct? “Rocks” are ice, so if you want a pour of your favorite spirit with some ice cubes, “on the rocks” is how you order it. But remember: letting the ice sit in the glass will change the experience of a spirit because of dilution. For high-quality spirits, many connoisseurs frown upon it, It's your cocktail so do what you want!

3. Ice it

Professionals may think it's gauche, but Scotch over ice isn't an unusual preference for whiskey drinkers. Some people appreciate a colder Scotch-drinking experience, and, plus, ice essentially does the same job as adding water—a little diluting, a little opening up of flavor. If you're going to use ice, though, opt for one of those big cubes—it'll melt slower, keeping your drink from getting so watered down that you can't appreciate it's nuances.

#5 Whiskey Sour

If you are in the mood for a more zesty drink that is both sweet and sour, this cocktail will be a good choice.

While many people think that whiskey sours will be too sour or tart, it is actually a well-balanced drink because of the sweetness of both the whiskey and the syrup.


  • 2 ounces of whiskey
  • ½ ounce of simple syrup (you can use up to ¾ ounces of syrup)
  • ¾ ounces of lemon juice (freshly-squeezed lemon juice is preferred)
  • Maraschino cherry for garnish (you can also use a lemon peel)


  1. Fill the cocktail shaker with ice. Then pour in the whiskey, simple syrup, and lemon juice.
  2. Shake the ingredients together.
  3. Strain the contents into an old fashioned glass over ice or into a chilled sour glass. (A sour glass is a miniature white wine glass.)
  4. Garnish your whiskey sour with a maraschino cherry.

7. Get to Know The Six Basic Distilled Spirits

Six types of liquor are used most often in the bar. They’re often referred to as “base distilled spirits” because they form the base or foundation for a majority of cocktails and liqueurs.

  • Brandy
    • Distilled from: Fruits, most commonly grapes.
    • Alcohol Content: 40% alcohol/volume (80 proof)
    • Flavor: It has a taste of fruity burnt wine.
    • Gin
      • Distilled from: Neutral grains, such as barley, rye, corn, and wheat. It’s flavored with a variety of botanicals.
      • Alcohol content: 40% to 47% alcohol/volume (80 to 94 proof)
      • Flavor: Herbal and dry, with “piney” aroma and taste.
      • Distilled from: Sugar, either molasses or pure sugar cane.
      • Alcohol content: 40% alcohol/volume (80 proof). Overproof rums can reach 75% alcohol/volume (150 proof).
      • Flavor: Sweet, toasted sugar.
      • Distilled from: Agave, a native plant from Mexico
      • Alcohol content: 40% to 50% alcohol/volume (80 to 100 proof).
      • Flavor: Earthy with semi-sweet and spicy tones.
      • Distilled from: Neutral grain, like rye, corn, wheat, etc., or potato.
      • Alcohol content: 40% to 50% alcohol/volume (80 to 100 proof).
      • Flavor: Neutral alcohol/ethanol that’s oily.
      • Distilled from: malted grains, which can include a mixture of rye, corn, barley, and wheat.
      • Alcohol content: 40% to 50% alcohol/volume (80 to 100 proof).
      • Flavor: roasted, malted grain with oak undertones.

      This is the best way to drink bourbon

      A common controversy among bourbon conversationalists is how to drink it. The answer is there is no “right” way to drink bourbon, but rather drink it the way you enjoy it… and depending on the day or the atmosphere, that can change. It’s okay: our bourbons won’t judge you.

      There are some common ways people order bourbon… but what do they mean?

      First up is “neat,” which tells the bartender to take a glass and pour some bourbon in it. You don’t want anything to get in the way, or you want to experience it how the distiller presented it to you. Neat is a great way to try a new bourbon and to savor the experience.

      Some people order their whiskey “up,” “straight,” or “straight up” expecting it to be served neat. That’s not the case, though it’s still a fine way to explore the nuances of a bourbon.

      When someone orders “bourbon, straight up,” they want a measure of bourbon poured over ice, stirred to temperature, and strained into a stemmed glass to protect it from over-dilution as ice melts over time. Bourbon served up is softer (less concentrated), more aromatic (lower proof), and sweeter because cold amplifies sweet notes.

      Try a bowl of Moose Tracks gazpacho if you don’t believe me.

      “On the rocks” (or “club style”) is just what it sounds like: bourbon poured over ice and handed to you. Drinking bourbon on the rocks is as enjoyable as drinking it straight up but will quickly become over-diluted. However, what if you enjoy a water back with your bourbon and are at a crowded bar? Nobody wants to be the dork walking around with two glasses, smashing into people and spilling their dignity all over the place.

      This is why it’s called “club style:” when you order bourbon on the rocks, your chaser is built in so your free hand can dish out some savage high fives. Also, as ice melts, you always look ready to celebrate accomplishments big and small because what kind of clown raises a toast with an empty glass?

      How to Order a Healthier Margarita:

      My personal go-to is tequila with fresh lime juice. I order it on the rocks but can also ask for club soda. For some sweetness, I ask for an orange wedge so I can adjust the sweetness.

      So now that you know the gotchas, here’s how to order a healthier margarita:

      • Ask for tequila on the rocks with a lime wedge or two. Ask for an orange wedge if you need to sweeten it up a little. This is my personal go-to. I prefer to have Tequila Reposado as it provides a deeper flavor than the more traditional Silver/Blanco tequilas.
      • Order a “Coin” margarita. Ask for light to no agave/ simple syrup.
      • Order “Skinny” margarita, only it doesn’t have fake sugar (you’ll have to ask your server/bartender). Ask for light to no agave/simple syrup.
      • Tequila neat/straight up with a lime
      • Ask to swap in Triple Sec, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier in place of a margarita mix, sugar, or agave.

      Next time you’re wanting to order a margarita, try one of my healthier options above. While tequila – and alcohol in general – is not “healthy,” these modifications will reduce the sugar, chemicals, toxins, and dyes your ingesting.

      And don’t forget to hydrate! Alcohol is a diuretic and is dehydrating, so remember to drink water before and between you imbibe.