There are drinks that rarely show up on drink menus but are still ordered every day in bars and restaurants across the country. These well drinks are often made with just a few simple ingredients and their familiar names are classics for a reason.
What are Well Drinks?
Well drinks are simple mixed drinks – often a combination of one or two liquors and a soft drink – that are made with the bar’s least expensive alcohols, or well liquors. These well liquors are kept right behind the bar within easy reach of the bartender in a long bin which resembles a well or trough, hence their name.
Each bar should have their well stocked, at minimum, with an inexpensive brand of vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, and tequila, along with a variety of sodas, juices, fruit garnishes, and mixes to accompany them.
How to Order Well Drinks
Unless a guest asks for a specific brand of alcohol in their drink, the bartender will generally make them a well drink. For example, if the guest simply asks for a gin and tonic, the bartender will create that drink for them from their well gin. However, if the guest asks for a Tanqueray and tonic, the bartender will use that higher-end brand of gin and the drink will cost the guest more than the well drink version.
The Benefits of Offering Well Drinks in Your Bar
Depending on the type of bar or restaurant you own, well drinks could account for up to 41% of your total bar sales. The cheaper alcohol brands and simple ingredients carry a smaller food cost margin and well drinks are much faster and easier for your bartender to prepare, freeing up their time to serve more drinks and speed up turnover at the bar.
Well Drinks List: What to Add to Your Bar Menu
Below are lists of the most-ordered well drinks split up by alcohol type. Every good bartender should be able to make these drinks without even thinking about it, and have the ability to free pour them accurately with two ounces of well liquor per drink.
List of Vodka Well Drinks
- Vodka Soda: Served with a lime wedge.
- Vodka Cranberry: Served with a lime wedge and also known as a “Cape Codder” in the Northeast.
- Screwdriver: Vodka and orange juice.
- Moscow Mule: Vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice, often served in a copper mug.
- Bloody Mary: Vodka, Bloody Mary mix, salt and pepper, garnished with a celery stick.
- Black Russian: Vodka and Kaluha. Add milk to make it a White Russian.
- Bay Breeze: Vodka, orange juice, and pineapple juice.
List of Gin Well Drinks
- Gin and Tonic: Served with a lime wedge.
- Gimlet: Gin, lime juice, and simple syrup.
- Tom Collins: Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and soda water. Can also be made with vodka on request, called a “Vodka Collins.”
List of Rum Well Drinks
- Cubra Libre: Cola, rum, and a lime wedge. Often ordered as a “rum and Coke.”
- Mojito: Mint muddled in sugar, topped off with rum and soda water. You can make different varieties with other herbs, juices, and mixers as well.
- Daiquiri: Rum, lime juice, and simple syrup.
- Dark and Stormy: Rum, ginger beer, and lime juice – just like a Moscow Mule but with rum.
List of Whiskey Well Drinks
- Whiskey Sour: Whiskey with sour mix or (less commonly) lemonade.
- Whiskey and Coke: This is more likely to be ordered with premium alcohol as a “Jack and Coke.”
- Whiskey Highball: Whiskey with ginger ale or soda water, garnished with a lemon twist.
List of Tequila Well Drinks
- Margarita: Tequila, Triple Sec, and margarita mix (there are various versions of margarita mix, but the most basic is lime juice and simple syrup).
- Tequila Sunrise: Tequila, grenadine, and orange juice. The ingredients should be poured in that order to achieve the “sunrise” effect in the glass.
- Mexican Bay Breeze: A Bay Breeze with tequila instead of vodka.