What Is Considered A Rail Drink?

When you walk into a bar and order a drink, you may hear bartenders ask if you want a “rail” or “well” drink. But what does that even mean? A rail drink is a type of drink made with the most basic and inexpensive ingredients available behind the bar.

While rail drinks are typically cheaper than their top-shelf counterparts, they can still pack a punch. Understanding the differences between rail and premium drinks can help you make informed decisions about what to order and how much to spend at the bar. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into what constitutes a rail drink and what you can expect when ordering one.

Quick Summary
A rail drink is a type of cocktail that is made with any type of alcohol that the bar has on the rail or well, which is the area where the bartender keeps the most commonly used liquors. Rail drinks are typically made with basic ingredients and are priced lower than premium or specialty cocktails. They include popular drinks such as gin and tonic, vodka soda, rum and Coke, and whiskey sour. The specific ingredients and proportions may vary based on the bartender or establishment.

The origins of the term “rail drink”

The term “rail drink” finds its origins in the railway industry of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, where drinks were served in the train’s bar car. In those times, the “rail” referred to the metal bar that ran along the edge of the bar counter. Bartenders would keep the most commonly ordered bottles on this rail for easy and quick access. Customers who ordered these common drinks were served from these bottles. The term “rail drink” then became synonymous with these common drinks served from the bottles kept on the rail.

Over the years, the term “rail drink” has come to encompass not just the drinks served from the rail but any drink that uses the most common, inexpensive or house-brand spirits. Rail drinks are usually the least expensive drinks on the menu and are often ordered at casual bars and taverns. Despite being inexpensive, rail drinks are not necessarily inferior to other drinks as the quality of the ingredients depends on the establishment and bartender.

How rail drinks differ from other types of mixed drinks

When ordering a mixed drink at a bar, you may hear the term “rail drink” tossed around. But what exactly makes a drink a rail drink? In short, rail drinks are standard mixed drinks that use the cheapest alcohol available at the bar. While the quality of the alcohol may not be top-notch, they are a budget-friendly option that is popular among bar-goers.

Rail drinks differ from other types of mixed drinks in that they feature a simple combination of alcohol and mixers. While other drinks may incorporate unique liqueurs, high-end spirits, or extensive garnishes, rail drinks are straightforward and easy to make. If you’re a fan of classics like vodka sodas, gin and tonics, or rum and cokes, you’re likely drinking rail drinks without even realizing it. While they may not be the most exciting option on the menu, rail drinks are a reliable, cost-effective, and consistently delicious way to enjoy a night out.

Common types of alcohol used in rail drinks

A rail drink typically contains a mixture of spirits, which can vary depending on the preferences of the customer and the establishment where the drink is being served. However, some types of alcohol are more commonly used in rail drinks than others.

One of the most popular types of alcohol used in rail drinks is vodka. This clear, neutral spirit is versatile and can be easily mixed with a variety of other ingredients. Other commonly used spirits in rail drinks include rum, gin, tequila, and whiskey. Each of these spirits has its own unique flavor profile, which can add depth and complexity to a rail drink when combined with other ingredients. Additionally, liqueurs and flavored spirits such as triple sec, peach schnapps, and raspberry vodka are often used to add a touch of sweetness or additional flavor to a rail drink.

Creating a basic rail drink recipe

Creating a basic rail drink recipe involves knowing the necessary ingredients and measurements to yield a consistent drink. The standard ingredients used in a rail drink recipe include a base liquor, which can be vodka, gin, rum, tequila or whiskey. Mixers such as soda, tonic, fruit juice or sour mix, and garnishes such as lime or lemon wedges, olives, or cherries are also used in most rail drinks.

To create a basic rail drink, start by choosing your preferred base liquor and adding it to a glass with ice. Next, add your mixer of choice and stir well. Finally, add your choice of a garnish, and voila, your basic rail drink is ready. It is essential to follow the standard measurements such as a 1:2 ratio of liquor to mixer and using only a limited amount of garnish to avoid any dilution in the final drink. Experimenting to create your own unique rail drink recipe adds to the fun of making a basic rail drink.

Top rail drink options at popular bars

When it comes to ordering rail drinks at popular bars, there are a few classic options that are always a safe bet. One top choice is a rum and coke, which can be made with any type of rum and a splash of cola. Another popular option is a gin and tonic, made with gin, tonic water, and a twist of lime.

For those who prefer a sweeter cocktail, a screwdriver made with vodka and orange juice is always a good choice. And for whiskey lovers, a classic whiskey sour made with bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup is a delicious option. Other popular rail drink options include a vodka cranberry, margarita, and a simple rum and pineapple juice. No matter what your drink of choice may be, these top rail drink options at popular bars are sure to please any palate.

Pros and cons of ordering rail drinks at a bar

Pros and cons of ordering rail drinks at a bar are worth considering for those who are looking for an affordable drink option at a bar. The most significant advantage of a rail drink is that it is cheaper than other liquor options available at a bar. This makes it a popular choice for those who want to enjoy a drink without burning a hole in their pocket. It is also a simple and easy option for people who are not particular about the taste of their liquor and want a quick drink.

On the downside, rail drinks are not always the best quality. As they are made from cheap liquors, they may not taste as good as other premium drinks. Additionally, consuming too many rail drinks can lead to upset stomachs and hangovers. It is therefore important to know your limits and keep track of how many drinks you have consumed. Despite the drawbacks, rail drinks can still be a great option for those looking for a budget-friendly and convenient drink option at a bar.

Tips for making the most of your rail drink experience

Making the most of your rail drink experience doesn’t have to be complicated. Follow these tips to ensure you have a memorable and enjoyable time. First and foremost, choose a drink that suits your taste buds. Some popular rail drinks include Long Island Iced Tea, Margarita, and Rum and Coke. However, if you prefer something with a fruity twist, opt for a Fuzzy Navel or Sex on the Beach.

Secondly, be aware of your limits and always drink responsibly. Avoid overindulging in alcohol as it can lead to unpleasant consequences. Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your rail drink can help keep you hydrated and prevent a hangover. Lastly, consider ordering a snack or appetizer while enjoying your drink. A light bite can help absorb the alcohol and make for a more enjoyable experience. With these tips in mind, you can elevate your rail drink experience and savor every moment.


In the world of bartending, a rail drink refers to a concoction made with the cheapest and most basic ingredients available. Although these mixes are not typically of high quality, they serve as the building blocks for some of the most popular cocktails across the globe. Most bars and restaurants offer rail drinks as an affordable and quick option for customers who don’t want to break the bank.

While rail drinks may not satisfy the finer tastes of the high-end drinkers, they offer a cost-effective solution for those looking to get a “bang for the buck.” Every aspiring bartender should know how to make a decent rail drink, as they are the foundation for all cocktails. So, next time you’re at a bar or restaurant and see the bartender reaching for the well bottles, you’ll know exactly what’s going into your drink!

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