Bartender Slang To Better Understand What Happens 'Behind The Stick'
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.
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Meaning: To macerate fruit or other ingredients in the bottom of a glass before adding alcohol. A special instrument called a muddler is typically employed to mash the ingredients against the sides of the glass and release essential flavors and oils. Drinks like the Old Fashioned and mojito are muddled.
Use It In A Sentence: "Table 7 wants to order a round of mojitos muddled with extra mint leaves."
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Speed Rail/Speed Rack
Meaning: The waist-level shelf where the bartender keeps the most commonly ordered liquors handy. In most establishments, speed rail/rack liquors are not top shelf or premium, and are used when patrons don't specify a certain brand of liquor for their drink. Bottles in a speed rail are arranged in a certain order to create uniformity across the industry: rum, vodka, gin, brandy, whiskey, scotch, bourbon, and tequila.
Use It In A Sentence: "Someone switched the vodka and tequila in my speed rack, and I accidentally made a margarita with Popov!"
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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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Meaning: Technically, the till is the drawer within the cash register that holds the money. However, the term is commonly used throughout the food and beverage industry to describe the entire cash register.
Use It In A Sentence: "My till was $10 short at the end of my shift, so I had to fork over some tip money to balance it out."
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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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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."