Like all alcoholic beverages, there’s a time and place for well drinks. Also known as “rail” drinks, these convenient, whip-’em-up-quick mixed drinks typically include inexpensive liquor, a mixer, and (an often questionable) garnish. At any bar, they are dependable staples.
With so many options to choose from, VinePair polled bartenders across the U.S. to find out what they drink from the rail. Below, 12 bartenders reveal their go-to well drinks.
“My go-to is a Scotch and soda with a lemon twist. It’s refreshing, light, and complex all at once. There aren’t a whole lot of truly low-quality Scotch whiskies out there, so I pretty much always feel safe just to order straight from the well.” — Will Wyatt, Owner and Beverage Director, Mister Paradise, New York, NY
“My go-to well drink is a holdover [from] my time on the West Coast, when I first was immersing myself in the industry: Jameson on the rocks. Why? Because, hopefully, I know exactly what’s going into my glass. [I]t’s an old habit from L.A. They drink Jameson by the gallon in DTLA.” — Stuart King, Owner, Sundry and Vice, Comfort Station, Cincinnati, OH
“Campari and club soda with a splash of orange juice. It’s bracingly bitter and refreshing, and being low in alcohol, you are able to drink multiple.” — Brandyn Tepper, Bar Director, Angler, Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA
“Mezcal on the rocks with a splash of soda and an orange wedge. Although mezcal is typically considered a ‘high-end’ spirit, the evolving bar scene in Chicago has made mezcal more accessible. I typically favor mezcal that features hints of smoky, chocolatey, and spicy flavors. My favorite ‘well’ mezcal would have to be Peloton, because it hits all the right notes without breaking the bank.” — Carolina Gonzalez, Beverage Director and Mixologist, WoodWind, Chicago, IL
“If it’s a dive and not a faux-dive, I’ll go with a shot of whiskey and a bottle of beer.” — Kenneth McCoy, Chief Creative Officer, The Rum House, New York, NY
“I’m a sucker for a gin and soda with lemon. It’s the intimate, refreshing, alpine experience that I love. I’m not big on sugary beverages, and don’t want to alter the flavors of the gin. The soda elongates the botanicals and reminds me of being a kid growing up in New England.” — Amanda Thomas, Bar Chef, SoBou, New Orleans, LA
“Campari and soda. It works for me year-round when I don’t quite know if I want a cocktail or a beer, and you can follow it up with anything. Bright and refreshing, the soda hydrates while the Campari gets my mouth watering for what’s next!” — Marissa Mazzotta, Bar Director, The Shanty, New York Distilling Co., Brooklyn, NY
“It depends on my physical latitude. If I’m in Minneapolis or anywhere south, I’ll stick with a gin and tonic — good old plastic bottle rail gin is just fine. At the best dives, I’ll toss the lime if it’s too dark to discern the shade of green. When I head to the north country, my behavior changes drastically and I tend to harken back to my saccharine days of youth and drink Canadian whisky and 7UP because it tastes like candy. Two ibuprofen before bed is the key to the latter’s success.” — Dan Oskey, Co-founder, Tattersall Distilling, Minneapolis, MN
“My go-to well cocktail is a gin with club soda and a lemon. It’s something [that’s] pretty mellow yet refreshing that I can enjoy at the beginning of a meal or while hanging out with friends.” — Frances Jones, Bartender, Kindred, Davidson, NC
“I would have to say that my go-to well drink would be a gin and tonic or a rum and Coke. I don’t drink much soda, so I [save it for] mixing with alcohol. A rum and Coke was definitely my go-to order when I was 21 and realized I was not much of a fan of beer… some nostalgia there for sure.” — Marshall Minaya, Beverage Director, Valerie, New York, NY
“I will generally get a lager and a shot of Angostura bitters, but if I am in the cocktail mood at a place that doesn’t ‘do’ cocktails, I would ask for a gin and soda or a rum and tonic. These are the [drinks] I order when I don’t want to make decisions or [I’m] day drinking with friends.” — Jeff Rogers, Bar Director, Jester Concepts, Minneapolis, MN
“This time of year, my go-to well drink is a Hot Toddy. Preferably with the house Scotch whisky, aromatic bitters, hot water, and some honey to round out the edges. I especially love how honey melds well with blended Scotch, which is typically what you may find in a well.” — Julia Momose, Partner and Creative Director, Kumiko, Chicago, IL