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What is the Difference Between Top Shelf and Well Drinks?

What is the Difference Between Top Shelf and Well Drinks?

What are Well Drinks?

A rail or well drink is usually served when a customer does not specify that a particular brand of liquor be used.  For example, a customer order for a “Scotch and soda” would lead the bartender to use a rail/well Scotch whisky and would be priced as a rail drink, whereas ordering “Glenfiddich and soda” would be a call drink.

What are Call Drinks?

Call liquors are known as such because the customer “calls” or requests a particular brand of liquor.   Certain expensive brand-name liquors are not considered or priced as call, but are instead known as “top-shelf” liquors, both from their placement on the shelves and from their price relative to the other liquors available.


What’s the Difference in Price and Quality?

Drinks using the ‘Well’ liquors are the lowest priced drinks.

Drinks using the ‘Call’ liquors are charged at a higher rate.

Drinks using ‘Top shelf’ liquors are the highest priced drinks.

Drinks using several liquors are charged at a higher rate.

EACH establishment has its own price structure, but the following may give you an idea:

What are Some Examples of Well and Top Shelf Liquors?

Top Shelf VODKAS frequently include:   Grey Goose, Kettel On, Belvedeire

Call VODKAS frequently include:   Stolichnaya, Finlandia, Skyy, Absolut, Smirnoff

Top Shelf GINS frequently include:   Bombay Saphire, Tanqueray Silver

Call GINS frequently include:   Beefeater, Bombay, Boodle, Tanqueray

Top Shelf RUMS frequently include:   Bacardi 151,  Mount Gay

Call RUMS frequently include:   Bacardi Superior, Captain Morgan, Meyers, Malibu

Top Shelf TEQUILAS frequently include:   Patron,  Cuervo Reservo, Cuervo 1800

Call TEQUILAS frequently include:   Cuervo Gold, José Cuervo, Cortez

Top Shelf WHISKEYS frequently include:   Crown Royal, Crown Royal Special Reserve,

Call WHISKEYS frequently include:   Seagrams,  Four Rose, Jack Daniels, Canadian Club, Canadian Mist

Top Shelf BOURBONS frequently include:   Old Grandad, Wild Turkey, Makers Mark, Knob Creek

Call BOURBONS frequently include:   Jim Beam

Top Shelf SCOTCHES frequently include:   Johnnie Walker Black, Chivas Regal, Glen Fiddich

Call SCOTCHES frequently include:   Johnnie Walker Red, Dewars, J&B, Cutty Sark


What are some Popular Drinks that will use Top Shelf or Well Liquour?

Below are some drinks you can plan on that will likely be ordered. Unfortunately, their name doesn’t tell you the ingredients. So, over time, you need to learn them. Until that time, keep a file handy that you can refer to in an emergency.

Alabama Slammer

Amaretto Sour



Bay Breeze


Black Russian

Bloody Mary

Buttery Nipple


Cuba Libre (rum & coke)


Fuzzy Navel


Irish Coffee


Lemon Drop

Long Island Ice Tea



Malibu Bay Breeze




Melon Ball




Old Fashioned

Piña Colada

Red Headed Slut

Rob Roy


Sea Breeze

Seven & Seven

Strawberry Daquiri

Tequila Sunrise

Tom Collins

Whiskey Sour

White Russian

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