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Jun 17, 2004 11:13 AM

Rail Drinks: what in tarnation is it?

  • t

I know its probably pretty ignorant to ask, but what exactly is a "rail drink"? How is it different from others?

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  1. A rail drink is made by the bar's rail liquors - meaning house pours - typically the cheaper brands - it gets its name because those are the bottles they keep on the rails behind the bar not on the nicely lit shelf. can also mean what most refer to as highballs (gin/ tonic, vodka/tonic, rum/coke, and the likes).

    9 Replies
    1. re: cheers2food

      I agree with your definition of rail liquor but I must disagree with your definition of a "highball". If you order a highball you will get a drink made with ginger ale and whiskey over ice.

      1. re: swingline

        Actually the term highball is a category of many types of tall mixed drinks, and it is also the name of the glass type used for a tall mixed drink, a highball glass. If you order a "highball" in a bar the bartender will look at you like you are an idiot and ask you what type of highball of which there are dozens... The drink of whiskey and lemon/lime soda or seltzer or ginger ale, is called a whiskey highball.

        1. re: The Rogue

          Agreed about the glass but I still think that a traditional highball is made with whiskey. I've included a link to a bartending site I often browse and they seem to agree with me. Maybe the definition has expanded? Kind of like the way there are dozens of different kinds of "martinis" these days but the traditonal is made with gin.


          1. re: swingline

            The original Highball was whiskey and gingerale, but the term has come to mean almost any liquor/soda combination. Just as you mentioned with the Martini, which never bothered me when a bartender asked me gin or vodka, but I hate asking for a martini and being handed a menu with 60 different combinations on it none of which being gin + dry vermouth.

            1. re: David Z

              Thanks for the confirmation. Agreed about the martini, but I must admit I'm a vodka man after an unfortunate evening of gin drinking many years ago.

          2. re: The Rogue

            It seems to me most bartenders will look at you like an idiot (assuming they look at you at all because then they'd have to pour a drink and make a tip) because they know nothing but Captain-Coke, beer, Rum and Coke, some pink blended concoction, and anything where the name is the ingredients. This in turn leads to me not ordering anything they will ruin which leads to them never learning: a vicious downward spiral of mediocrity.

            1. re: muD

              I agree with you about the low quality of bartenders. But I must say that I have found some really great bartenders in some nicer hotels. Specifically Sam Lek at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. He makes the most sublime sidecar (and does not need a card to tell him how to do it). If you are ever in DC you should check him out.

              1. re: Sthitch

                No doubt, and when I find a good bartender I will go back once I learn their shifts.

          3. re: swingline

            This reminds me of an old joke:

            A giraffe, a skunk, and a deer go into a bar. The Bartender comes over and takes their order, comes back and says, "Okay, which one of you is paying?" The skunk says, "I've only got one cent on me." And the deer says, "I've only had a buck on me since last Thursday." So the giraffe says, "I guess Highballs are on me!"

        2. The fact that you asked that question undoubtedly means you did not see this recent thread on this subject, which will not only answer your question but educate you on other aspects of "bar tending" that you may, or may not, have wanted to know. Hounds are a knowledgeable and through bunch. That much is certain.


          2 Replies
          1. re: WLA

            Now I've read the other thread, but I'm still confused. Are rail and well drinks the same thing?

            1. re: shortorder

              Yes, well and rail are the same thing.

          2. Don't confuse a "rail drink" with "drinking the rail". The former is, as others have mentioned, the same as a "well drink". The latter is an over-hyped drink made from taking the rubber mat on which the bartender pours/mixes the drinks and draining the contents - really just the spillage from the night's pouring - into a glass. The common perception of "the rail" is that it's a high-powered mix of booze...when in fact, it's pretty low in alcohol content. If you poured a half-ounce of 7-Up, Coke, tonic, OJ, and grapefruit juice into a glass and let it come to room temp, you'd approximate "the rail".

            4 Replies
            1. re: ricepad

              "Drinking the rail?" I've never heard of such a thing. Do you know of anyplace that actually *sells* this concoction? What about all the crap that falls onto the floor besides liquor? Surely you're putting us on...

              1. re: TomSwift

                I've only seen insane bartenders (e.g., one of the dude's at the Kibbutz Room in Canter's Deli on Fairfax in L.A.) treat themselves to the concoction.

                1. re: TomSwift

                  It's not a mat on the floor - it's the rubber mat with all the little knobby things on it that sits on the bar where the drinks are made, usually with a brand name of some booze imprinted on it.

                  1. re: SuzyInChains

                    Right you are. I misread the post, a common occurance for me.

              2. I had the same question while at a sushi lounge. I thought may be it was engrish for well drinks.