Well Cocktails 101 Guide (2022)

Sarah Buckholtz
Post by Sarah Buckholtz
June 7, 2022
Well Cocktails 101 Guide (2022)

The well drink menu is a standard feature of any bar or liquor-licensed restaurant with bartenders mixing these cocktails for customers night after night. 

Although you won’t often find well cocktails on the menu, the simple ingredients in these drinks are unsung heroes because they’re always in high demand.

For that reason, it’s important to get a good grasp of the basics when it comes to well cocktails, learn the ingredients, and understand what makes them a profit maker for the house.

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What We’ll Cover in This Piece:

 

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What Is A Well Cocktail?

Simply, well cocktails are mixed drinks made with the lowest-cost liquor that a bar stocks. These lower-cost spirits are usually stored within easy reach of the bartender. The “well” is an easy-access location for the bartender to quickly mix up common cocktails.

Bartenders stock the well with inexpensive brands of whiskey, rum, vodka, gin, and tequila. There should also be a selection of various sodas, juices, garnishes, bitters, and grenadines on hand to make any classic well cocktail.

Note: Well cocktails don't need to be listed on your menu, and a customer should be able to walk into any bar and order a common well drink with consistent results.

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What Makes Well Cocktails a Profit Maker for Your Bar?

If you want to make money and serve your customers faster, well cocktails are the answer. 

Well cocktails are high-volume, low-margin drinks, which can be made by the bartender with ease. For example, a vodka soda or a gin and tonic.

Well drinks are easy to prepare, use ingredients you probably already have on hand, and offer big flavor in a small package. 

In most cases, the steps it takes to make well drinks are fewer than the ingredients of the cocktail itself!

The key to well drinks: keeping the liquor cost down while still maintaining a high profit margin. Well cocktails are great money makers because a bartender can prepare several in the same amount of time it takes to prepare one craft cocktail made with top-shelf liquor. 

Another benefit of well cocktails is that they’re an affordable choice for customers. They are easy to order and won't break the bank, making well cocktails an ideal addition to a happy hour menu—especially on nights when you want to drive as much foot traffic to your bar and restaurant as possible.

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The 15 Most Popular Well Cocktail Recipes 

Customers love cocktails because they're inexpensive and taste delicious. With a few thoughtful twists and unique garnishes, they can be your bar’s bread and butter.

For each spirit (rum, vodka, whiskey, gin, and tequila), we’ve given you two examples of classic cocktail recipes and all their ingredients, along with one elevated cocktail recipe. 

Use the menu below to jump to your favorite spirit or take a look through them all.  

Cocktails Featured Here

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Rum

Classic Well Cocktails

Rum and Coke

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. rum
  • Cola
  • Highball glass
  • Lime garnish

Instructions: 

  • Fill a highball glass with ice.
  • Add the rum.
  • Top the glass with cola.
  • Garnish with lime.

 

Dark ’n Stormy

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz rum
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 5 oz ginger beer, to top 
  • Lime wheel for garnish

Instructions:

  • Add rum and lime juice to a tall glass filled with ice.
  • Top with the ginger beer.
  • Garnish with a lime wheel.

 

Elevated Well Cocktails

Mojito

Ingredients:

  • 3 mint leaves
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz white rum
  • 3/4 oz lime juice
  • Club soda, to top
  • Mint sprig and lime wheel for garnish

Instructions:

  • Lightly muddle the mint with the simple syrup in a shaker.
  • Add the rum, lime juice, and ice, and give it a brief shake. 
  • Strain into a highball glass over fresh ice.
  • Top with the club soda.

  • Mint sprig and lime wheel to garnish.

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Vodka

Classic Well Cocktails

Vodka Soda

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz vodka
  • Club soda, to top
  • 1 squeeze lemon 
  • Lemon wedge to garnish

Ingredients:

  • Fill a glass with ice, then add the vodka.
  • Top with the club soda.
  • Garnish with a lemon wedge.

 

Screwdriver

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 5 oz of orange juice
  • Highball glass
  • Orange slice to garnish

Instructions:

  • Fill a highball glass with ice.
  • Add the vodka.
  • Top the glass with orange juice.
  • Garnish with an orange slice.

 

Elevated Well Cocktails

Dirty Shirley

Ingredients: 

  • 2 oz vodka  
  • 1 oz grenadine
  • 8 oz lemon-lime soda
  • Maraschino cherry for garnish

 

Instructions:

  • Fill a highball glass with ice. 
  • Add the vodka and grenadine to the glass. 
  • Top with soda and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

 

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Whiskey

Classic Well Cocktails

Whiskey Sour

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice or sour mix
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • Egg white (optional)
  • Angostura bitters to garnish

Instructions:

  • Add bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white, if using, to a shaker and dry-shake for 30 seconds without ice.
  • Add ice and shake again until well chilled.
  • Strain into a coupe glass (a type of stemmed champagne glass with a shallow bowl used to hold sparkling wine and other drinks).
  • Garnish with 3 or 4 drops of Angostura bitters.

 

Manhattan

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 oz Rye whiskey
  • 1 oz Sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes aromatic bitters
  • Brandied cherries or orange slice to garnish

Instructions:

  • Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
  • Add whiskey, vermouth, and bitters.
  • Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  • Garnish with an orange slice or cherry.

 

Elevated Well

Whiskey Smash

Ingredients:

  • 3 lemon wedges
  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • 4 mint leaves
  • Mint sprig to garnish

Instructions:

  • Muddle the lemon wedges in a shaker.
  • Add bourbon, simple syrup, mint leaves, and ice and shake until well chilled.
  • Double-strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
  • Garnish with a mint sprig.

Photo by Devin Berko on Unsplash

 

Gin

Classic Well Cocktails

Gin and Tonic

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz gin
  • 4 to 5 oz of tonic water
  • Highball glass
  • Lime to garnish

Instructions:

  • Fill a highball glass with ice.
  • Add the gin.
  • Top the glass with tonic and stir.
  • Garnish with lime.

 

Gimlet

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • Lime wheel to garnish

Instructions:

  • Add the gin, lime juice, and simple syrup to a shaker with ice and shake until well chilled.
  • Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.
  • Garnish with a lime wheel.

Elevated Well Cocktails

Salty Dog

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp grapefruit zest
  • 4 oz grapefruit juice 
  • 1 wedge sliced grapefruit, for rim and garnish
  • 1 1/2 oz gin

Instructions:

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Tequila

Classic Well Cocktails

Margaritas

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz tequila
  • 1/2 oz orange liqueur
  • 1 oz lime juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/2 oz agave syrup
  • Lime wheel and kosher salt to garnish

Instructions:

  • Add tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, and agave syrup to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake until well chilled.
  • Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
  • Garnish with a lime wheel and kosher salt rim (optional).

 

Tequila Sunrise

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz blanco tequila
  • 4 oz orange juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/4 oz grenadine
  • Orange slice and cherry to garnish

Instructions:

  • Add the tequila and then the orange juice to a chilled highball glass filled with ice.
  • Top with the grenadine, which will sink to the bottom of the glass, creating a layered effect.
  • Garnish with an orange slice and a cherry.

 

Elevated Well Cocktails

Paloma

Ingredients:

  • 2oz Tequila 
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • Grapefruit soda or juice
  • Grapefruit wheel fo garnish

Instructions:

  • Combine all ingredients into highball glass.
  • Add ice.
  • Grapefruit wheel to garnish.

 

And of course, who could leave out the grand finale of well cocktails … 

Long Island Iced Tea

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 oz light rum
  • 1/2 oz gin
  • 1/2 oz vodka
  • 1/2 oz tequila
  • 1/2 oz triple sec
  • 1 oz sour mix
  • Cola
  • Lemon slice garnish

Instructions:

  • Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
  • Add vodka, gin, rum, tequila, triple sec, and sour mix.
  • Shake to combine.
  • Pour into a hurricane or highball glass.
  • Top with a splash of cola.
  • Garnish with a lemon slice.

 

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Sarah Buckholtz
Post by Sarah Buckholtz
June 7, 2022
Sarah Buckholtz is a Content Writer and Editor for Untappd, Oznr, and Hop Culture. For more than a decade she has interviewed everyone from artisan makers to Grammy nominated musicians to Jefferson Award winning preservationists. She is a former blog writer and marketing manager for American Pickers creator and host, Mike Wolfe, covering stories about heritage tourism and preservation coast-to-coast. Sarah grew up on the shores of Lake Erie in Pennsylvania and is currently drinking a Jackalope Thunder Ann in Nashville, Tennessee.