Skip to content
How To Order A Spirit

Neat, Straight Up, Or On The Rocks? How To Order A Spirit

What’s the difference between neat and on the rocks? How is straight up different from neat? Cocktail lingo has been around for decades but for a lot of people, the difference between these styles can be confusing or simply misunderstood. 



Neat is the least confusing of cocktail terms. This means that a spirit is directly poured into a glass (preferably a NEAT Glass). It’s similar to a shot, but the glass makes a huge difference in the sipping experience. Neat drinks are about two ounces, not chilled, there are no extra ingredients (even ice) and no, you can’t order an Irish Car Bomb neat. Brandy and whiskey are the most popular spirits to drink neat. High-quality spirits of any kind are commonly enjoyed neat as well.



This term typically describes an alcoholic beverage that is iced and is shaken or stirred. Before being served, the drink is strained, removed of its ice, and normally poured into a cocktail glass. Example: You want to order a neat whiskey but don’t want it at room temperature. Simply tell the bartender for whiskey served “up” and he will pour whiskey in some ice long enough to chill. The ice is removed and that’s how a whiskey served up.


Straight Up

Although this can get a bit confusing, we have it straightened up for you (ba dum tss!). Sometimes people use the term “straight” interchangeably with “neat,” which is where the confusion begins so always check with the bartender just in case. Classic examples of drinks served straight up are a martini, manhattans, sidecars, sazeracs, pisco sours, and grasshoppers. These are mixed drinks that are chilled with ice and then served without.


Ok, this is where it actually does get confusing. Firstly, It’s common to hear someone order a bourbon straight, although is the more appropriate term for this should really be “neat.” Some have ordered  a chilled vodka (served in a stemmed glass), but as we discussed above, this should actually be ordered “up.” See how it gets confusing? It’s wiser to double-check with the bartender because this also changes from one establishment to the next.


On The Rocks

This is a much simpler term that is rarely confused in the bar industry. “Rocks” are ice, so if you want a pour of your favorite whiskey with some ice cubes, “on the rocks” is how you order it. But remember: letting the ice sit in the glass will change the experience of a spirit because of dilution. For high-quality spirits, many connoisseurs frown upon it, but at the end of the day, if that’s how you enjoy your glass, so be it!


Remember to read our guide on How To Taste A Spirit where we provide expert advice on how to maximize your sipping game and stay updated on current and future SIP happenings by subscribing to our newsletter below and check out our 2019 winners here!

Scroll To Top