5 Bartending Terms that All Patrons Should Know

Even if you’re frequently at a bar ordering your drinks, chances are you’ve rarely been behind a bar. Like many other positions, bartending has it’s own idiosyncrasies, aggravations, and of course, terminology. Some of these terms are commonplace, like “rocks”, “shaken”, or “free pour.” But others are much less conventional, and might throw you for a loop if you’ve never been “behind the stick” (which essentially means bartending.) Here are 5 terms to add to your pub dialect that may have confused you in the past.

1. Buy Back

This is one phrase that every patron needs to know. Bartenders can choose to buy back a drink, aka give it to you for free. Essentially a buyback is a drink on the house, making it an important one to add to your lexicon. Just don’t ask for a buyback. Be a good patron, and karma will reward you.

2. Speed Rail

The speed rail is the stainless steel metal container located behind the sinks of a bar, generally containing the “well” or cheap alcohol used to make many cocktails. When a bartender reaches down and pulls a bottle out of what seems to be thin air, they are pulling from the speed rail.

3. Highball

Highball is a type of drink that consists of a liquor and a soda. Typical highball drinks are Rum and Coke, Whiskey and Ginger Ale, etc, and are served in what you call a highball glass.

4. Pony

The typical pour for 1 shot is an ounce and a half. However, patrons can also elect to take 1-ounce shots instead of the full pour. A one-ounce shot is known in the bartending community as a Pony.

5. To “Back”

This phrase is a substitute for requesting a chaser. Say you want a whiskey on the rocks, and you’d like a ginger ale chaser. You would ask for a “ginger ale back” to signal the bartending that you’d like the ale to chase the whiskey.