12 Easy Alcohol Slang Words to Make You an Expert

By Kaylee Pratt
Posted in The Field Guide to Drinking in America, on April 03, 2017

Martini ingredients

We’ve all been there and have seen it on the movies: I’ll take a martini, straight up, dirty and dry. Give me two fingers of well whiskey, neat, long. To the less-experienced drinker or bartender, all this slang can get confusing. So here are twelve basic slang words to use at the bar. (Basic, but not elementary, because we all know what on the rocks means!)

  • Neat: Alcohol straight from bottle to glass… no ice, no frills, no nothin’. Whiskey and brandy are often ordered “neat,” because people enjoy them at room temperature. (e.g. I’ll have a Jack Daniels, neat.)
  • Straight up: A drink chilled by shaking or stirring, then strained into a stemmed glass without ice. Often confused with “neat,” but this term is used most often for martinis, which are often enjoyed chilled.
  • Back (or chaser): A small, non-alcoholic drink consumed after a shot or alongside a drink ordered neat. (I’ll have a whiskey with a soda-back.)
  • Finger: An informal measurement of alcohol. If you want “two fingers” of alcohol, you want it measured by the width of two fingers on the side of the glass. Again, this term is most often used with whiskey because it’s often served neat.
  • Long: Served in a tall glass (I’d like an old-fashioned, long.)
  • Topless: no salt on the rim of your margarita. This’ll be a fun one, don’t you think?
  • Twist: A citrus peel twist over the drink. (Martini with a lemon twist.)
  • Dry: Less mixer in a mixed drink, or less vermouth in a martini.
  • Wet: Conversely, more mixer in a mixed drink, or more vermouth in a martini.
  • Well: the least expensive (and lowest quality) alcohol in the bar, usually an array of bourbon, vodka, rum, tequila, and gin. If you don’t specify the alcohol you want — say, Ketel One, Jim Beam, or Bacardi — you’ll automatically get a well drink.
  • Body: thickness or “mouth-filling property” of a beer, described as “thin-” or “full-” bodied.
  • Hoppy: a description of beer flavor, regarding hops (an herb) used in brewing to create a bitter aroma. IPAs are renownedly hoppy.
Whether you’re a bartender, newbie, or connoisseur, there will always be new slang to catch up with. If you want to know some fun facts about the drinking world, you should check out Niki Ganong’s The Field Guide to Drinking in America, which outlines each state and its alcoholic history. Let the terminology begin!