List of Well Drinks and Guide to Profitability

A bartender wearing an apron standing behind a bar in the area where well drinks are made.

Well drinks are alcoholic beverages prepared using liquors kept close at hand in a rack called a well. Most well drinks are made by mixing liquor with common ingredients such as seltzer, club soda, bitters, and various fruits. The well area has other nicknames, including speed rail, speed rack, or speed well. Bars and restaurants with a liquor license maximize profits on well drinks since these spirits are typically lower cost and used to make most drinks. Unless a customer requests a specific type of liquor in their drink, they will be served from the well. 

Bartenders stock the well with commonly used spirits to improve efficiency and provide better customer service. This area plays a vital role for bartenders and it is always in their best interest to keep it stocked, organized and clean.  Learn more about popular well drinks and how they can be used to increase profitability.  

Well Vs. Rail Drinks

Essentially, well and rail drinks are the same thing. Both are made with the “house” brand of liquor that is specially chosen to quickly make popular cocktail options. Some bartenders refer to the well as the rail, but essentially, both well and rail drinks are made by grabbing liquor from the same place.

What Makes a “Premium” Drink?

Customers may have a preference when it comes to the brand of liquor they enjoy. When a customer requests a certain liquor, this is referred to as a “call drink.” These are commonly made with middle-shelf products that fall in the middle of the price range. Jack and Coke and Bacardi and Coke are common call drinks.

Premium drinks are prepared with top-shelf liquor. These are also prepared by request. If customers are willing to pay more for higher-priced brands, they may order a “Kettle One and soda” instead of a simple “vodka soda.”

The Profitability of Well Drinks

Well drinks are more profitable than any other item on a restaurant menu. They come with a food cost percentage of 5%, which leaves a healthy profit margin. Consider that food comes with a food cost percentage of 25%-40%, beer is 20%-40% and wine ranges from 30%-50%. It doesn’t hurt that well drinks are also quick and easy to make. As long as bartenders aren’t overpouring, restaurants can earn significant profits on a high-volume product. 

Bars and restaurants can be a risky business, but with the right strategies, you can maximize profits and bartenders can earn generous tips. Well drinks present an excellent opportunity to sell drinks that comes with an unmatched profit margin. With easy recipes that require minimal ingredients, well drinks are a valuable resource. 

Essential Well Drink Recipes

Well drinks can range from simple (vodka soda) to more complex (Long Island Iced Tea). More experienced bartenders will be able to whip up a variety of drink recipes from memory. For new bartenders, here is a list of staple well drink recipes and how to make them:

Vodka Well Drinks

1. Vodka Soda

The vodka soda is the go-to drink for people who want something simple and refreshing and without all the extra sweeteners and calories. 

2 oz. vodka
Soda water


Fill rocks glass with ice, then vodka and top off with soda water. Garnish with a lemon, lime, or orange wedge.

2. Screwdriver

The screwdriver is the big brother of the mimosa. This drink packs a little more of a punch with just the right amount of sweetness. 

2 oz. vodka
Orange juice

Fill highball glass with ice, then add vodka and top with orange juice. Garnish with a maraschino cherry or orange slice.

3. Vodka Cranberry

This is a sweeter and more colorful take on the vodka soda. A splash of cranberry juice adds flavor and creates another simple drink with a high-profit margin.

2 oz. vodka
2 oz. cranberry juice
Soda water

Fill rocks glass with ice, then vodka and cranberry juice. Top off with soda water and garnish with a lime for a refreshing twist.

4. Moscow Mule

The Moscow Mule is a refreshing drink that is perfect in the summer.

2 oz. vodka
Fill the copper mug with ginger beer
Add a splash of lime juice

Fill a copper mug with ice, then add vodka, splash of lime juice and top with ginger beer. Garnish with a lime wedge.

5. Madras

This sweet cocktail is a hit in the summer.
2 oz. vodka
2 oz. cranberry juice
1 oz. orange juice

Fill highball glass with ice, then add vodka, cranberry juice and top with orange juice. Garnish with mint leaves, a cherry, or orange slice.

6. Dirty Shirley

You may have enjoyed a non-alcoholic Shirley Temple as a kid. The Dirty Shirley is an adult version made with vodka.

2 oz. vodka
1 oz. grenadine
Fill rest of glass with Sprite
Maraschino cherry

Fill highball glass with ice, then add grenadine and vodka, and top with Sprite. Garnish with an orange slice paired nicely with the requisite candied cherry.

7. Kamikaze

Typically, kamikazes are served up as a shot, but adding some soda water can turn this classic shot into a sippable drink. 


2 oz. vodka
1 oz. triple sec
2 oz. lime juice

Soda water

Fill rocks glass with ice, then vodka, triple sec and lime juice. Top off with soda water.

Gin-Based Well Drinks List

8. Gin & Tonic

This is another basic drink that is a popular option. 

2 oz. gin
4 oz. tonic

Fill rocks glass with ice, then add gin and garnish with a lime wedge.

9. Gin Buck

The spicy ginger flavor is the perfect partner to the piney flavors of gin.

2 oz. gin
Fill rest of glass with ginger ale or ginger beer

Fill rocks glass with ice, add gin and then fill the rest of the glass with ginger beer.

10. Gimlet

The gimlet is a refreshing drink with just the right amount of sweetness and acidity.

2 oz. gin
1 oz. lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup

Pour gin, lime juice, and simple syrup into a shaker filled with ice. Shake the mixture until it is chilled. Pour the gimlet into a rocks glass and add a lime wedge for garnish. 

Rum-Based Well Drinks List

11. Dark & Stormy

If you like the idea of a Moscow Mule, but prefer rum, a Dark and Stormy is the drink for you.

2 oz. rum
Add a lime wedge
Fill rest of glass with ginger beer

Fill a copper mug with ice. Add rum and fill the rest of the glass with ginger beer. Then add a lime garnish.

12. Cuba Libre

As the name implies, the Cuba Libre has roots in Cuba and was popularized in America during the 20th century.

2 oz. rum
4 oz. cola
Garnish with a lime wedge

Fill a rocks glass with ice, add rum and cola, and add a lime wedge to the rim as a garnish. 

13. Daiquiri

This classic well drink can also be tied back to Cuba and is a simple option that bartenders can quickly prepare. 

2 oz. rum
1 oz. lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup

Pour all the ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Shake until thoroughly chilled and strain the mixture into a chilled glass. 

14. Mojito

A little sugar and some mint leaves add flavor complexity to well rum.

2 oz. rum
1 oz. lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup or 2 sugar cubes
Fill rest of glass with soda water
Mint leaves

Muddle a few sprigs of mint with two sugar cubes and lime juice in a highball glass. Fill glass to the top with ice and add rum. Finally, fill the glass to the top with soda water. 

Tequila-Based Well Drinks List

15. Margarita

For many, a margarita is the classic party drink, especially during the summer.

2 oz. tequila
1 oz. triple sec
1 oz. lime juice
½ oz. simple syrup

Rub the rim of a glass with a lime wedge and then dip it into salt. Fill a shaker with ice, add all the ingredients and shake before pouring into a glass filled with ice. 

16. Tequila Sunrise

Don’t be fooled by the fruity flavor of this well drink. It still packs plenty of boozy flavors.

2 oz. tequila
1 oz. grenadine
Fill rest of glass with orange juice

Fill glass with ice and add the orange juice and tequila. Finally, add the grenadine, which will naturally sink to the bottom without any stirring necessary.

Whiskey-Based Well Drinks List

17. Whiskey & Coke

The classic “Jack and Coke” never fails to please customers.

2 oz. whiskey
Fill rest of glass with cola

Add ingredients to a rocks glass and enjoy.

18. Whiskey Sour

The whiskey sour is a two-ingredient drink that is sure to be a popular request. 

2 oz. whiskey
Fill rest of glass with lemonade or sour mix

Add ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake the mixture thoroughly and strain it into a rocks glass. 

Other Well Drinks

19. Long Island Iced Tea

The Long Island Iced Tea has a reputation as a delicious and strong drink, so you may want to keep an eye on customers who re-order this well drink.

½ oz. tequila
½ oz. vodka
½ oz. gin
½ oz. rum
½ oz. triple sec
1 oz. sour mix or lemonade
Splash of cola

Add all the ingredients to a highball glass that is already filled with ice. Gently stir the ingredients and garnish with a lemon wedge. 

FAQs

What is a well drink? 

Well drinks are made from house liquors that are stored in a well or rack that is convenient for the bartender to reach.

What are wells at the bar? 

Wells are areas in the bar where less expensive and commonly used liquors are stored. 

What is the difference between well and rail drinks? 

Well drinks and rail drinks are basically the same and the terms can be used synonymously.

What is a premium well drink? 

Premium drinks are made using top-shelf liquors that have been specifically requested by the customer.

What are common well drinks? 

Vodka soda, vodka cranberry screwdriver, Moscow mule, dirty Shirley, madras, kamikaze, gin and tonic, gin buck, gimlet, Cuba libre, daiquiri, mojito, dark and stormy, margarita, tequila sunrise, whiskey sour, whiskey and coke, and Long Island iced tea. 

How are well drinks profitable?

Well drinks have a food cost of 5% and can be made quickly, which helps make them the most profitable item on any menu. 

There is 1 comment
  1. It’s great that you talked about bars and how having a liquor license increases its profits. Recently, one of my cousins mentioned he’s interested in starting his own business. He wants to open a bar, and I think your article might help with it. Thanks for the information on bars and what makes them popular and profitable.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *