Note: This post was updated in May, 2013 because I realized that the way it was originally written only added to the confusion.
Someone recently asked me to resolve a little dispute between him and his friends about the difference between a neat, an up, and a straight up drink.
This is not the first conversation on the subject because these terms are often confused with one another. The difference between the first two is simple: chilled or not. Straight up, however, can bring the most confusion.
- Neat typically refers to a undiluted shot of liquor served at room temperature.
- Up or Straight Up is usually used to describe a drink that is chilled with ice (shaken or stirred) and strained into a glass (typically a cocktail glass).
- Straight is where things get really confusing because drinkers use it in two different ways. Some use when they order a straight pour of darker spirits (e.g. bourbon straight, which would mean neat) while some use it to mean a white spirit chilled and served in a cocktail glass (e.g. vodka chilled, which would mean up).
For another perspective on these confusing terms, check out: Up, Neat, Straight Up, or On the Rocks by Jeffrey Morgenthaler.