Bar Lingo That Good Bartenders Should Know

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Have you ever walked into a bar and felt lost in the sea of jargon being tossed around by the bartenders? As a bartender, it’s crucial to be fluent in the language of the bar to not only impress customers but also ensure the smooth functioning of the establishment. The bar industry has its own unique language and terms that can be overwhelming for someone who is not familiar with it. From orders to drink recipes, it’s essential to know the correct terminology to avoid any confusion or mistakes. 

If you’re a bartender, mastering the bar lingo can make all the difference in your bartending career. Knowing the right terminology can help you create the perfect drink, interact better with customers, and even increase your tips. In this article, we cover the essential bar lingo that every good bartender should know to succeed in the industry.


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Popular Bar Lingo 

Whether you’re a seasoned cocktail server or you’re a new service bartender, understanding the basics of bartending is a must, and a key part of the basics of bartending is the lingo. Below, our experts have collated a list of some of the most important words and phrases that every professional bartender should know.

Free Pour

Bartender lingo is one of the cornerstones of knowledge in bartending, and free pour is a classic example. Free pouring involves foregoing a unit of measurement to measure out a drink. It’s perhaps the simplest bartending technique that any bartender should learn. You’re just pouring from the heart. This is one of the quickest ways to serve a drink but is not as accurate as using a dedicated measure. It’s commonly used for cocktails with just spirits or those mixed with simple ingredients like syrups and juices.

In addition, mastering free pouring also means having the ability to quickly assess how much liquor needs to go into each cocktail based on customer preference without having to reach for jiggers or other tools. It serves as an essential foundation for any aspiring barman looking to hone his craft over time while working behind the bar!


Neat is a term used to describe an alcoholic blend that is served without any mixers or additional ingredients. It simply means straight liquor, usually in a chilled glass. This can be whiskey, tequila, vodka, and other liquors poured directly from the bottle into the glass with nothing at all added. The neat drink has the strongest possible alcohol content since it has nothing to dilute it.

A common type of neat drink is known as ‘neat on the rocks’, which is when ice cubes are added to the chilled glass before adding the spirit. The combination of cold temperatures and slow melting ice will help reduce some of the alcohol content while allowing for a more refreshing taste. If someone would like something else besides this basic combination, they could add citrus juice, such as lemon or lime juice, which helps bring out flavors within the spirit, but this will no longer be a neat drink.

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Muddling is a popular bar term used to describe the process of mixing ingredients together in order to create a type of alcoholic beverage. This often involves crushing fruits and herbs with either a mortar and pestle or a muddler, which is a tool specifically designed for this purpose. The mixture can then be added to any type of liquor such as vodka, whisky, rum, tequila, gin, or even soda water or juice for those who prefer non-alcoholic drinks. 

To make a classic mixed drink like a mojito, muddlers are essential tools that allow bartenders to blend fruit and herbs with alcohol and other mixers like tonic water into a tall glass. The art of combining various liquors along with different flavorings can take some practice but once mastered can result in amazing creations that will leave customers returning time after time for another sip. By having knowledge about this technique and understanding how it works, skilled bartenders will be able to experiment and come up with their own signature drinks.. 

Shaken Not Stirred

Shaken not stirred is one of the most iconic bartending terms. It’s a phrase that refers to how drinks should be prepared, and it also speaks to the attention to detail and craftsmanship behind making quality cocktails. While many people associate this phrase with James Bond films, it’s actually part of basic bar lingo that all good bartenders should know.

When preparing a shaken drink, you typically use a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes along with various drink ingredients such as a neutral spirit, fruit juice, or liqueur. You shake the ingredients together for 10-15 seconds before straining into a rocks glass or highball glass over fresh ice cubes. Shaking a cocktail or any kind of drink ensures you get a cold drink every time. 

Straight Up

Drinks are often served “straight up”, which refers to spirits that have been shaken with ice, then strained. This method of chilling is used to keep the drink chilled without the presence of any added ice flavoring or dilution. The phrase “straight up” is most commonly used when referring to mixed drinks, whereas if someone was asking for a simple liquor drink they would typically only use the word “up,” such as whiskey up being a chilled version of neat whiskey. 

On the other hand, when “straight” is used by itself it typically means a synonym for neat. Straight-up or up cocktails are perfect to order if you want something cold but don’t want an overly watered-down drink. The fact that these drinks are pre-chilled on their way to your glass also means they come out faster than standard drinks due to having 15-20 seconds less shaking time compared to traditional cocktails. 


A chaser is an essential part of the bartender’s bag of tricks. It is a small drink served on the side of a shot of alcohol, that can be used to dull the blow of the hard liquor. The most classic example of a chaser would be having a shot of Jack Daniels accompanied by a small glass or cup filled with Coca-Cola or a tequila followed by a chaser of lemon juice. This will not only give you an extra jolt, but it also helps to balance out the strong flavor and harshness of the alcohol.

In addition to using chasers to mellow out hard liquor, some people take it one step further and use them as mixers for cocktails. For example, adding cranberry juice to vodka can make either a pleasant martini or just enough sugar and acidity to make your vodka easier to drink. 


Cut is a term that every bartender should know. It refers to the practice of ending a patron’s drinking session, usually when they have had too much alcohol and need to stop. It is important for any bartender to remain aware of who has been drinking because ultimately they are responsible for ensuring customers stay safe while enjoying themselves in moderation. By being cautious of patrons and understanding what cut means, you can become an invaluable asset behind the bar by providing everyone with an enjoyable experience.


Floating or layering is a popular technique used to create a visually appealing mix of alcohol at home or in bars. When floating, ingredients are strategically poured in layers with lighter alcohols put on top of heavier ones. This allows each component of the drink to be separate from other components while also allowing it to blend in with the flavors from the bottom layer. One of the most popular examples of a floated drink is the baby Guiness which is a shot glass full of tia maria with a layer of Baileys floating on top.

To begin floating or layering your ingredients, you’ll want to start with the heaviest layer first. Carefully pour additional layers down the side of the glass over an inverted bar spoon as this lets the alcohol trickle over several directions and keeps it away from breaking through and sinking into the mixture beneath it. It takes practice, but creating layered drinks can provide a unique addition to any social gathering!


Bitters are an important staple for any bar, allowing mixologists to craft some of the most common cocktails with smooth, complex flavor profiles. At their core, bitters are a distilled alcohol that has been flavored with a variety of botanicals, the most common being dandelion root, licorice root, Wormwood, sassafras and various citrus peels. This blend gives powerful notes that can range from bitter to spicy and sweet. When added in small quantities to any cocktail or food recipe, they act as a balancing agent and help bring out hidden flavors.

The usage of bitters is highly varied across different types of drinks and foods, you can find them anywhere from dry Manhattans to coffee or tea-based recipes. These little bottles can really work wonders for expanding your palate, therefore it’s essential for every aspiring mixologist to stock up on some premium bitters. 


A highball is a classic mixed drink that dates back to the early 1900s. Originally, it was simply spirits such as gin or whiskey mixed with carbonated soda and served over ice in a tall glass. Today, more exotic flavors are becoming popular such as vodka and ginger ale or tequila and tonic. No matter what spirits and non-alcoholic mixers you choose to combine, the final result is always a refreshing beverage that quenches thirst on hot summer days.

What typically sets this essential drink apart from other drinks is its presentation. Generally, it is served in a tall glass known as a highball glass which can range from 8-12 ounces in size. Manufacturers have designed special versions of these glasses for blended drinks such as margaritas and daiquiris which feature artwork along the sides but all traditional spirit-soda mixtures should be served in these iconic vessels. If you’re looking to make an impression at your next party or outdoor gathering, serve some delicious highballs for everyone to enjoy!

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Call Drink

A call drink is an alcoholic beverage where the customer requests a specific brand or type of liquor to be used in their drink. This usually involves the naming of a particular liquor such as Grey Goose vodka or Bacardi rum and, optionally, a light mixer like tonic water or Coca Cola. It is distinct from ordering a well drink, which would use lower-cost liquors from the speed rail instead. When preparing a call drink, it’s important that the bartender pays close attention to what has been requested in order to meet customer expectations.

Call drinks may come with specially garnishes depending on the preferences of the customer. For example, if someone orders a vodka martini with an olive garnish then this should be served with an extra large olive stuck inside the glass rather than a small one. This makes call drinks alluring for people who appreciate special attention to detail as part of their overall drinking experience.


Digestifs are alcoholic drinks typically consumed at the end of a meal to aid in digestion. There is an array of digestifs available, ranging from herbal liqueurs like Jagermeister and Italian Grappa, to sweeter fortified wines such as port or sherry. They tend to be higher in alcohol content than aperitifs, usually between 20-50% ABV, and often contain herbs such as fennel or anise that help with digestion.


A garnish is an artistically placed topping used to enhance both the looks and flavor of a beverage. It’s the finishing touch for drinks, whether they are served cold, hot, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. While some garnishes simply add aesthetics to an otherwise plain drink, others contribute subtly to the overall taste of a beverage. Olives, sprigs of rosemary and orange peel are all commonly used items that you’ll see adorning your favorite cocktails.

Invest In A Bar Inventory App

Knowing your lingo is an essential part of bartending, but if you want to manage a successful bar, you also need to stay on top of your bar inventory. The best way to manage your bar inventory is to invest in a bar inventory app that automatically tracks your inventory levels, making it easier than ever to keep your affairs in order.

The Rapid Bar App is a specialized app designed to streamline your inventory management system. It can seamlessly connect to your POS system so you get real-time updates on the status of your inventory. You can even order from your suppliers directly from the app, making the entire process quick and stress-free.

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