Bars offer a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages so guests can unwind and have a good time. However, while there'll always be premium drinks with expensive liquors and complicated pours, some patrons just want a simple cocktail. That's why bartenders are always ready to craft up well drinks—like a Moscow mule or tequila soda—especially during happy hour.
Well drinks are easy to make and serve, and they're relatively inexpensive drinks to place on a bar menu. Let's talk about the definition of well drinks, how they differ from call drinks, some popular well-drink recipes, and the benefits of including them on your bar's drinks list.
What is a well drink?
A well drink is a cocktail or alcoholic beverage crafted with cheaper alcohol, otherwise known as well liquor. Drinks that use well liquor aren't as expensive as other cocktails made with top-shelf liquor. Since these drinks are easy to make and can be served right away, a good bartender can make a well drink in about a minute. Some popular well drinks are the Long Island iced tea, rum and coke, and vodka soda.
Why is it called a well drink?
Certain beverages are known as well drinks because they use liquor kept closest to the bartender, otherwise known as the well. The well is the name used for the shelf or cabinet with lower-quality alcohol. Some other popular names for the well are the speed rail or speed rack since it allows the bartender to grab and pour a drink as fast as possible. That's why well drinks are also called rail drinks.
What is a call drink?
Well drinks do not rely on a particular brand of alcohol, as compared to cocktails that require top-shelf liquor. If a bartender asks a guest for their preferred brand of liquor, that patron would then receive a call drink. A call drink is any alcoholic beverage that uses a higher quality brand of liquor above the usual well liquors. Call drinks are popular with patrons who prefer a premium drink cocktail instead of a simple beverage with club soda, lime juice, and a shot of tequila.
Popular well drink recipes
A surprising number of patrons are familiar with well drinks because they're staples at any bar. There's rum and coke, gin and tonic, whiskey ginger, and much more. In their most basic form, well drinks are any drink with a lower quality alcohol mixed into a glass with ice and other flavoring like simple syrup, grapefruit soda, or orange liqueur.
Since these recipes are fairly straightforward, you can even create your own variations of common well drinks to add some extra variety to your menu. For example, create a holiday menu with well drinks that emphasize winter flavors, such as mint leaves, cranberry juice, and ginger beer flavors over the traditional sour mix drinks with simple syrup, lime juice, and soda water. Well drinks appeal to patrons who want a simple pour from any brand of liquor you have around. So always keep a rocks glass with ice on hand in case anyone wants a quick strong drink.
While seasoned bartenders know these popular well drinks like the back of their hand, we've included these recipes if you need a refresher. If you're a new bartender, no need to worry. These well drinks only use common ingredients found in a bar, like triple sec, agave syrup, lemon juice, and an orange slice every now and then.
Long Island iced tea
The Long Island iced tea is perhaps the most famous well drink with its high alcoholic content and wide mix of ingredients like triple sec and vodka.
To make a Long Island iced tea, mix the following liquors together:
- At least 1/2 oz of vodka
- 1/2 oz of triple sec
- 1/2 oz of tequila
- 1/2 oz of rum
- 1/2 oz of gin & fill the rest of the mixer with ice
- In a highball glass, add agave or simple syrup
- For extra flavor, add 1 oz lime juice
A vodka soda is a fun, bubbly drink that is as easy to drink as it is to make. While you'd typically serve this drink in a Collins or highball glass with ice, feel free to use another type of glassware.
To make a vodka soda, follow these directions:
- Pour 1-2 oz of vodka in a Collins glass
- Fill rest with club soda water
- Add ice and garnish with a lime wedge
The vodka cranberry, also known as the Cape Cod, is a simple well drink for anyone that wants a sugary twist. This popular well drink is so flexible you can add an extra sour mix of flavors and alcohol with a few simple ingredients to really make its flavors pop.
To make a vodka cranberry, follow these directions:
- Pour 1-2 oz of vodka in a highball glass
- Mix 2 oz of cranberry juice
- Fill rest of glass with soda water & add ice
Rum and Coke
Rum and coke, also known as a Cuba Libre, is perfect for anyone wanting the usual sweet flavors of a Coke with a slight punch of rum. Like most well-drink cocktails, rum and Coke is a simple mixture of two ingredients and served in a highball glass or Collins glass with ice.
- Measure 1-2 oz of rum in a highball glass
- Fill the rest of the glass with Coke
- Add ice & top with a lemon or lime wedge
Gin and tonic
A gin and tonic is as simple as it sounds. Even a dedicated patron that only drinks gin will sometimes opt for this well drink with its carbonation and lemon flavoring. All you need is a rocks glass with ice, and the drink is ready to serve.
Here is the simple recipe for a gin and tonic:
- Add 1-2 oz of gin in a rocks glass
- Pour 4 oz of tonic water with ice
- Garnish with lime wedge
A Moscow mule is sometimes mistaken for a carbonated beverage because of its lemon flavor. The Moscow Mule is a bit different from other well drinks since this craft cocktail is served in a copper mug and not a glass.
Here is the recipe for a Moscow mule:
- In a copper mug, add 1-2 oz of vodka
- Fill the rest of the mug with ginger beer
- Add at most .5 oz of lime juice and ice
A daiquiri feels like a classy drink that could cost a bit more than other cocktails. Unlike a classic cocktail like the margarita, daiquiris do not use a chilled cocktail glass or any garnish. The daiquiri is simply served in a Coupe glass or chilled cocktail glass.
To make a daiquiri, follow this recipe:
- Measure 1-2 oz of rum into a shaker
- Add 1 oz of lime juice
- Pour .5 oz of simple syrup
- Shake vigorously and strain to serve in a cocktail glass
Mojitos offer a tropical flavor with a twist using crushed mint and sugar cubes mixed with rum and lime juice. And if you like it extra sour, throw in more lime juice. Much like the Moscow mule, a mojito can also be served in a copper mug or just a normal glass.
To make a mojito, follow these directions:
- Place 4-6 crushed mint leaves in a mug
- Pour 2 oz of rum
- Mix 1-2 oz of lime juice
- Add 1-2 tsp of crushed sugar simple syrup
- Stir or shake, then serve in a copper mug or glass
The screwdriver is a simple two-ingredient cocktail that can be crafted in seconds, which probably proves why it's included on every bar's "classic drinks" list. As a mixed drink, it can be served at a fancy brunch or at the start of a good night at a dive bar without looking out of place.
Here is the recipe for a classic screwdriver:
- Measure out 2 oz of vodka & fill into a glass with ice
- Fill the rest of the glass with orange juice
The whiskey ginger is a highball drink that emphasizes a spicy ginger flavor and a classic whiskey taste. Your bar only needs a few simple ingredients, some whiskey, and a highball glass.
To make a whiskey ginger, follow these directions:
- Pour 1.5-2 oz of whiskey in a highball glass
- Fill rest with 5-6 oz of ginger ale or ginger beer
- Finish with a lemon wedge or lime wedge
Guests love whiskey sours because they leave a tart yet satisfying flavor. If your patron wants extra ice, add whiskey and the other ingredients first, then mix the ice once the drink has been shaken. Whiskey sours are typically poured into a Cobbler glass or Coupe glass.
To make a whiskey sour, follow these directions:
- Pour 1-2 oz of whiskey bourbon in a Cobbler glass
- Mix half an ounce of simple syrup
- Add 1 oz lime juice or lemon juice
- Shake in a cocktail shaker for approximately 20 seconds
- Strain and pour the cocktail into a glass with ice
- Garnish with a lime wedge, orange slice, or lemon wedge
A tequila sunrise is a sweet cocktail that feels more like a fruity dessert than an alcoholic beverage. While most drink recipes call for ice in a glass with orange juice, your bartenders can also use pineapple juice or grapefruit soda as a substitute.
To make a tequila sunrise, follow these directions:
- Pour 3 oz of grapefruit, pineapple, or orange juice
- Add 2 oz of tequila in a glass with ice
- Finish with grenadine & fill the rest of the glass
- Garnish with an orange slice or Maraschino cherry
A tequila soda consists of three ingredients that bars use every day. Instead of a lime wedge or juice, try experimenting with orange juice or a splash of cola garnish for a different flavor profile for these types of mixed drinks.
To make a tequila soda, follow these instructions:
- Mix in 2 oz of tequila of your choice
- Add 5 oz soda water
- Garnish with a lime wedge / fill the rest of the glass with lime juice
Benefits to adding well drinks to your bar menu
When you offer well drinks at your bar, you provide patrons with the opportunity to still buy an alcoholic drink even if they aren't thirsty for top-shelf alcohol. By having well drinks easily on hand, your bar also gets the potential to gain some extra profit since the ingredients needed to make well drinks will always be on the cheaper side.
Just remember to keep track of your beverage and food cost percentages each month as a part of your profit and loss statements. If you don't know how to find your cost percentage, click here to access a beverage and food cost percentage calculator for free.
And with the right point-of-sale system, you can see more of your bar's sales data thanks to instant reporting. With SpotOn's own POS reporting feature, bars gain the ability to streamline revenue, spot data trends over time, and even get email notifications when costs, hours, or sales exceed your thresholds.