Shaken or Stirred?

By: CultureOwl
Shaken or Stirred?

While Happy Hours are great fun, they can be intimidating to some who may not be as savvy with all the “drink speak,” i.e. terminology used when ordering cocktails, especially in a crowded and loud environment. We thought we’d take the opportunity to de-mystify the lingo and provide some interesting tidbits to share with friends, over appetizers and drinks of course!

A Splash of History: So Where Do Cocktails Come From?

A cocktail is defined as "an iced alcoholic drink mixed with flavoring.” There are two schools of thought regarding the origin of the term “cocktail.” The first theory is that “cocktail” is derived from the French “coquetel,” an egg cup that was used for serving drinks. However, the term is also believed to have originated in Mexico, where drinks were stirred with a long root, known as a “cola de gallo,” or “cock’s tail.”

There are many international variants of the term “cocktail.” In Germany, they are called "slings," from the German word “schlingen,” meaning to swallow quickly. Terms like Fizzes, Toddies, Juleps and Punches were all forerunners of the cocktail. Among the first cocktails was the Manhattan, made from whisky, sweet vermouth and bitters. We’re fine with whatever anyone wants to call cocktails, just as long as the drinks keep coming!

Terminology aside, there are just so many decisions to make when ordering drinks. Do you want it Shaken vs. Stirred? Vodka or Gin? Classic vs. Signature? Well, Call, or Premium? Margarita, Mojito, Martini, or Mint Julep? How do you choose? It’s enough to make your head spin. But it’s nothing having a few drinks can’t take care of.

We highly recommend attending a tasting at a liquor store (Crown Liquor or Total Wine have great tastings) and getting familiar with the different types of liquors to ease your Happy Hour experience.

A Great Rule of Thumb

Good quality liquor mixes containing fresh ingredients make for the perfect cocktail every time. Definitely seek out specialty bars, such as a rum bar (e.g. The Tuck Room or Paladar), or a Martini Bar (like the Blue Martini Lounge and Martini Bar at the Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach). Make sure to arrive early and sit at the bar if you can, and engage the bartender (oh, excuse us, “Mixologist”) with conversation. They love to share their favorites, and you will learn a lot. It’s like School with Alcohol! But remember, stay away from pre-mixed and/or over sugared drinks!

A Shot of Lingo To Get the Party Started

We’ve compiled this beginner’s glossary to help wet your whistle when ordering at the bar:


A well drink is a drink made with the cheapest liquor available at the bar.


A call drink is made with the type of liquor you specify. For example, Absolut and v tells the bar tender to use Absolut Vodka and not their house (well) Vodka. Keep in mind that if you specify a top shelf vodka such as Grey Goose, your drink category is no longer call, but...


A premium drink is a drink made with an expensive or top shelf liquor. (Please note: This type is our fave!)

Tips on How to order

A Back refers to a non-alcoholic chaser, like water, soda or juice, to go with a shot. "May I get a shot of Jack Daniel's with a Coke back?"

A double pour of liquor (to get you through difficult days or if you’re late and need to catch up with your friends).

Dirty means with olive juice and it's used in gin or vodka martinis. (We like to get “filthy!”)

Dry means with dry vermouth and is normally used with gin or vodka martinis.

Neat, or sometimes referred to as straight up, means without ice and in an old-fashioned glass. It is used when ordering a liquor by itself, such as Scotch neat. (Neat drinks are usually ordered by serious drinking professionals. Not to be confused with a shot, neat drinks are meant to be sipped slowly).

Up means chilled and strained into a martini glass. If you want a martini without vermouth, order a gin up or vodka up.

Tall means in a bigger glass. If you order a tall drink, you get the same amount of liquor, but with more juice or soda. Not all drinks can be ordered tall. Drinks that come in Highball glasses can be made tall by using Collins glasses. If you don't like strong drinks, you may ask your mixologist to make your drink a tall drink.

With a Twist
This means to add a lemon twist to the drink.

Wheels refers to a shot of tequila served with salt and lemon. If you can’t handle it straight, you need training “wheels” to get you going.


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