Culture

Bartender Slang To Better Understand What Happens 'Behind The Stick' 

Donn Saylor
Updated November 5, 2019 377 votes 65 voters 9.2k views 24 items

List Rules Bartenders only: vote up the bits of professional jargon you use productively at work.

There's something magical about what a bartender does. A bartender's skill goes beyond their obvious talents for getting patrons blitzed. There is both a science and an art to creating drinks, and the world of professional mixology is filled with its own behind-the-bar slang, industry-specific jargon, and secret codewords. Bartenders perform alchemy behind their shiny countertops, amid the twinkling glasses and amber bottles, and they've been brewing up their magic for millennia. Throughout history, they've maintained a more or less consistent presence in societies.

As far back as Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, bartenders have played an important role in bringing people together, keeping thirsts quenched, and ensuring the troubles of the day are forgotten. Over the centuries, they've had plenty of time to develop their own substantial, unique lingo.

Dirty is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Bartender Slang To Better Understand What Happens 'Behind The Stick'
Photo: Evan Swigart/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0
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Dirty

Meaning: Adding olive juice to a martini makes the drink a dirty martini. The more olive juice one adds, the dirtier the cocktail.

Use It In A Sentence: "I'll have an extra dirty martini, four olives, stirred and not shaken."

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86'd is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Bartender Slang To Better Understand What Happens 'Behind The Stick'
Photo: Patrick Heusser/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0
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86'd

Meaning: A menu item or ingredient that is currently out of stock or otherwise unavailable. The term is used in both bars and restaurant kitchens. There are multiple origin stories for the term, several of which center around bartending. According to one version, bartenders in the Old West often served powerful, 100-proof liquor. When a patron became too rowdy, the barkeep would serve them less potent, 86-proof liquor, thus 86'ing the drunken customer.

Use It In A Sentence: "We ran out of tomato juice, so we've 86'd Bloody Marys for the rest of the night."

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Neat is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Bartender Slang To Better Understand What Happens 'Behind The Stick'
Photo: Chris huh/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
3
Neat

Meaning: Another mostly old-school bar term, neat is another way of saying two ounces of liquor. A neat drink is served with no ice or mixers, just alcohol. It is different than a shot only because of its size; a shot is 1.5 ounces.

Use It In A Sentence: "I'm pouring three Jim Beams, neat, for those guys wearing cowboy hats in the corner."

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Call is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Bartender Slang To Better Understand What Happens 'Behind The Stick'
Photo: Sam Howzit/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0
4
Call

Meaning: A liquor that is more expensive than a standard well liquor and can be identified by name alone. A call drink is typically ordered by naming the liquor and the mixer. Examples include a Jack and Coke, an Absolut Mandarin and tonic, and a Dewar's and soda.

Use It In A Sentence: "That couple at the end of the bar ordered call drinks all night and racked up a $200 bill."

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