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Origin of term 'Up' ?

OK, I know what it means for a drink to be served 'up', but does anyone know how this term originated? It's a tough question to google because the search terms are so vague.

As you can guess, this debate started over drinks, and I'll look like a real hero next time we go out if I can find the answer. Thanks everyone!

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  1. My totally random and made up guess: Another term for a drink with ice is "over", perhaps the logic went that because one picks up something that is tipped over a drink with no ice should be "up" but still chilled?

    Seems like a reach, but there you go.

    1. Okay, let's start at the beginning. This is just my theory, by the way...

      "up" is short for "straight up"- I think we can agree on that.

      Now, where does "straight up" come from? Could be from just "straight"- which means "direct, undeviating, uncrooked", OR "undiluted, uncompromising"... AHA!

      But up? But why not "straight down"? Because that's a negative connotation- thumbs down, etc. "Up" is a good thing. Straighten up and fly right and all that. And ti got shortened. By the way, I order "straight" rather than "up" for the same result. Maybe the shortening is regional.

      Okay, now here's a twist. Why is ordering "neat" the same? Because "neat" also means "unadulterated"..

      12 Replies
      1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

        Great insight Caviar. My only real quibble would be that "neat" and "up" is not the same thing. "Up" means chilled but no ice in the final product, while "neat" means unchilled.

        1. re: boozemonkey

          OK, straight is no additives whereas neat is no ice. When I order a martini in a restaurant that I haven't been to, it's vodka straight up. And I have to clarify "no vermouth" which shouldn't have to be. I just wish I didn't have to make sure they didn't put vermouth in it. Can't we abolish vermouth in the Martini!!!!!!!

          1. re: ddonthehill

            You want a cold glass of vodka, so don't order a Martini.

            Vodka. Up. Specify garnish if desired.

            That'll get you what you want and will require no clarification.

            1. re: ultramagnetic

              Yea, that's not a martini, it's a V&V!

            2. re: ddonthehill

              No, we can't abolish vermouth in the martini, that's like abolishing cheese in the ham and cheese. Ultra-m has it right.

              "Straight up" doesn't mean "no additives", it means a drink (including a mixed drink) that been chilled on ice and then had the ice strained off. "Neat" means a single spirit that hasn't been mixed with anything else, including ice.

              I don't really know what "straight" means without the "up", although I generally take it to mean "straight out of the bottle" and therefore rarely order anything that way in a bar.

              1. re: erwocky

                To clarify, I didn't say "straight up" meant "no additives", I said "straight". Also, if you order a martini in most "decent" restaurants, they don't use vermouth, e.g. El Gaucho, Met, USG. I know because I asked YEARS ago.

                1. re: ddonthehill

                  I've been a sommelier, bartender and server for 15 years and I've NEVER heard of a place not putting vermouth in a martini unless specifically asked not to. There's a difference between a cocktail glass full of vodka/gin and a martini. Any bartender not adding the vermouth isn't worth his Boston shaker.

                  I'd be pissed if my martini didn't have vermouth in it. That's a completely incorrectly made cocktail. God, what else gives the vodka "martini" (kangaroo, etc.) any flavor?!?

                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                    I was with a group of older gentlemen a few years back when one of them ordered some sort of martini and commented on how good and nuanced it was so I ordered one as well. Turns out it was an oversized orange infused vodka with a good amount of ice melt. If there was vermouth in there, the ratio must have been no less than 12:1.

                    1. re: Icantread

                      I'd highly doubt vermouth would be added to a flavored vodka "martini" drink, but those don't even count, since their whole point is to mask the flavor of any booze with raspberries, oranges, etc.

                      1. re: invinotheresverde

                        It needed something! while I agree, this guy didn't just break the rule of vodka in a martini, he poured just vodka in a large cocktail glass and called it a martini. I have to say, back then I was so perplexed (and disgusted). And I was with some people that made me feel like I better finish up what I ordered.

                  2. re: ddonthehill

                    I never heard of any place making a martini without vermouth, even in an extra dry one. Vermouth is intrinsic to a martini, while vodka is not.

            1. re: sku

              Interesting, I've always assumed "up" and "straight up" are the same thing, i.e. chilled and then strained of ice. I guess there is some confusion. This has never been a problem for me, since I only order cocktails straight up, and presumably the bartender realizes I don't want my martini room temperature.

              Guess it's a question of looking cool vs. making sure you get the drink you actually want.

              1. re: sku

                "Straight Up: Usually means “neat”, but check first." from Morgenthaler's article is a misnomer by the public.

                "Straight up" or "up" = stirred or shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass.

                Not discussed here is the fact that a vodka martini "straight up" or "up" is made (at my bar) with 3 ounces of vodka. Vodka or even bourbon "straight up" or "up" is made with 2 ounces (the house pour for all liquor). Hence a price difference and a half empty cocktail glass.

                A point of clarification in definitions sometimes is needed to be made by the waiter with the uninformed customer when ordering.

                Save our nomenclature!

              2. up-- it's the stem on your cocktail glass (raises the mixed drink "up" above the bar or table, as it were). cocktail glasses are called martini glasses by some people. "i'll have a sapphire martini, up"-- tells the bartender to prepare the martini & serve in a cocktail glass vs. "i'll have a sapphire martini, rocks" (over ice in a rocks glass). but you don't say "i'll have a sapphire martini, down," unless you're pulling your favorite bartender's leg :)

                1 Reply
                1. re: soupkitten

                  I suppose you could ask for it down, eg in an old fashioned or rocks glass and strained. I sometimes ask for that (typically with a Manhattan, in my particular case) if the bar is very crowded and I'm standing to avoid spilling.

                  I'm not even going to go the the "why does my martini have vermouth in it?" question.