What Is Bottom-Shelf Liquor – And Does It Matter?

What Is Bottom-Shelf Liquor - And Does It Matter?

If you frequently visit a bar, orders like “rum and coke” and “vodka soda” from a stool pulled up to a bar are so commonplace you probably hear them daily. You see the bartender whip up a few bottles and ingredients from a rail about their waist height, and, in a jiffy, the patron is served.

Perhaps you are preparing for your first booze and want to be abreast with what to look out for or avoid causing a scene when you get a bill you did budget for.

The point is, whichever category you fall in, you’ve probably heard about bottom-shelf liquors (or well liquors, as the case may be), and that’s why you are reading this.

So, what are bottom-shelf liquors?

As the name implies, bottom-shelf liquors are liquors stored at, or towards, the bottom of the shelf behind the bartender due to their low costs and high demand.

Read on to answer your burning questions on bottom-shelf liquors and more.

Bottom-Shelf Liquors Explained

Bottom-Shelf Liquors Explained

Bottom-shelf liquors, or well liquors, are liquors kept within the bartender’s arm’s reach and are usually served in a shot glass or in a classic cocktail. Because they are often made with the cheapest available liquors, they are usually not of high quality, hence the name “bottom-shelf.”

Another reason bottom-shelf liquors are so cheap is that they are produced in large numbers, and their shelf life is usually short (less than 5 months). They also quickly lose their flavor over time, so they often need to be replaced.

Other Names for Bottom-Shelf Liquors

Bottom-shelf liquors go by several names, with the most popular being “well liquors.” This is because the area behind a bar, usually about the bartender’s waist height, is called a well, and drinks made using ingredients found in this area are usually called Well Drinks.

Well drinks usually contain one or more liquors and a combination of soft drinks. A popular example is a rum and coke.

The Well area of a bar is also referred to as “speed rail,” “speed rack,” “speed well,” and “rail.” As these names imply, the area is designed to ensure bartenders can churn out drinks as fast as possible.

The well typically holds a variety of brands, including vodka, tequila, rum, gin, and whiskey. You can also find there various juices, soda, grenadine, triple sec, and garnishes like cherries, lemon wedges, and lime wedges.

Call Liquors and Bottom-Shelf Liquors

Call Liquors And Bottom-Shelf Liquors

Call liquors are pretty common, and you’ll hear mentions of them regularly in pubs and bars. The first thing you’ll probably notice about call liquors and bottom-shelf liquors is how they are ordered.

For call liquors, you “call” the brand of the liquor you wish to drink.

For example, Belvedere Martini with a twist or Rum and Coke.

For the former, the bartender knows to prepare a vodka martini comprising Belvedere vodka and a lemon twist. For the latter, the bartender knows to whip a shot with rum and cola.

The second is the price difference. Call liquors are generally more expensive and, as a result, have slightly better quality than Bottom-Shelf liquor.

When do you take call liquors? Short answer, when you are looking to get drunk pretty fast. If you are hanging out with friends and don’t want any booze too potent, bottom-shelf liquors will serve you right.

Bottom-Shelf Drinks Worth Drinking

Bottom-Shelf Drinks Worth Drinking

We all know that feeling when we’re out at a bar, and we see the beautiful top-shelf bottles with their perfect labels and logos. But then we remember that we’re on a budget, so we reluctantly order something from the bottom shelf instead. And let’s be honest, most of the time, it doesn’t taste great.

But what if I told you that there are actually some bottom-shelf drinks that are worth drinking? That’s right, there are a few hidden gems on the bottom shelf that are sure to surprise you with their flavor. So next time you’re at a bar, don’t be afraid to try one of these tasty bottom-shelf drinks.


Best bottom-shelf tequila drinks worth your time:


Margarita is the #1 tequila drink to order at a bar and the #1 party drink. Served in a salt-rimmed Margarita glass, a serving is made by melding three ounces of tequila, two ounces of lime juice, one-ounce simple syrup, one teaspoon of orange liqueur, and one tablespoon lime-salt-sugar.

El Diablo

With a bold flavor that can knock you out, this red hue drink combines crème de cassis, reposado tequila, lime juice, and ginger beer to deliver its punch. If a  strong and bold flavor is your thing, this is definitely for you.

Tequila Sunrise

As the name implies, the drink’s gradient is similar to that of an exquisite sunrise. Tequila sunrise is made by combining tequila, orange juice, and grenadine. It is usually served in a highball glass, and no stirring is necessary as you don’t want to ruin the drink’s unique gradient.


Best bottom-shelf whiskey brands that will surprise you:

Four Roses Bourbon

Four roses bourbon blends ten special recipes to create a luscious whiskey that appeals to enthusiasts, fans, and newcomers alike without breaking the bank. The palate is balanced with acacia honey, cinnamon, lemon, marmalade, and oak.

Old Grand-Dad

This whiskey’s palate boasts high rye content, sweet caramel, raisin, vanilla, cinnamon, and a touch of burnt oak, giving it a bold flavor and corny sweetness.

Old Crow

One of the most historic brands ever, it was dubbed to be the favorite spirit of Mark Twain. It’s reputable for its bold flavor, with a palate comprising dried fruits, sweet corn, vanilla, caramel, and distinct notes of fresh grass.

Popular options for boozes based on whiskey are Whiskey Sour and Whiskey & Coke.

Other Bottom-Shelf Drinks

Popular and tasty drinks of other liquors that are stored on the bottom shelf:


Popular vodka-based bottom-shelf drinks include Vodka Soda, Vodka Cranberry, Screwdriver, Moscow Mule, Dirty Shirley, Madras, and Kamikaze.


Noteworthy gin-based bottom-shelf drinks include Gimlet, Gin Buck, Gin & Tonic.


If you have a thing for rum-based bottom-shelf drinks, popular options include Daquiri, Mojito, Cuba Libre, and Dark & Stormy.

Final Thoughts

It’s perfectly okay to order from the bottom shelf. In fact, the average patron in most bars doesn’t request a specific brand of liquor for their mixed drinks and is typically served Bottom-Shelf Liquors.

If it’s your first booze, I guess we’ve given you quite the drinks to ponder. And if you visit a bar often, why don’t you try kamikaze instead of vodka soda on your next visit?

That said, make sure to always glance at the “Well” before ordering a drink. Do they have your favorite tequila? Are there vodka brands in the well you are okay with? Perhaps, “calling” Jack and Coke will be better instead?

Don’t overthink things, though. If you are having a hard time deciding, you can always contact the bartender to help you out.