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Colleen Graham

Is it Neat, Up, or Straight Up?

By May 31, 2007

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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.



July 12, 2008 at 5:03 pm
(1) Vicki says:

Thank you for answering this burning question!

July 12, 2008 at 5:50 pm
(2) cocktails says:

You’re welcome, glad it helped.

July 22, 2011 at 5:36 pm
(3) Captain Quirk says:

Not so much a “burning” question as a chilling one! ;-)

August 29, 2009 at 7:52 pm
(4) Sugar House denver says:

LOL…I had an argument with a new bartender about this subject last night. She tried to argue the point that “neat” meant double since there would be no ice!!!

Thanks…I’m printing this out to prove my point!

Scottie Ewing
Proprietor – Sugar House, Denver CO

August 29, 2009 at 8:05 pm
(5) Colleen says:

Sweet! Yet another bar argument solved!

Send me more common questions at cocktails.guide@about.com and I’ll see if I can answer them.

November 24, 2009 at 3:58 pm
(6) Paul says:

So what type of glass does a Neat drink go in? Such as, a scotch neat…does it go in a rocks glass or a snifter? which is the standard?

January 31, 2011 at 5:08 pm
(7) Armand says:

A scotch neat would be served in a rocks glass

August 20, 2011 at 2:45 pm
(8) Scott says:

Wrong, a scotch neat would be served in a snifter

September 4, 2011 at 1:47 am
(9) Thaddius says:

The shape of a Cognac snifter or a Scotch glass allows more heat to transfer from your hand to release more flavor and that same shape helps to focus the delightful aroma of your Scotch Whisky.

September 15, 2011 at 5:51 am
(10) Ernie the Cat says:

Dang, I always thought that “Up” meant that it was served in a stemmed, or footed glass, hence, an “Up Glass.” Twenty years of Dirty Martini drinking, and I ordered them every one wrong. Depressing.

December 28, 2011 at 8:32 am
(11) Norm says:

I ordered a drink last night without ice. The bill had a $1.00 charge for “NEAT”…I asked about this and I was told that since there was no ice I got more liquor than if I had ordered it on the rocks. I didn’t dispute the (trivial) charge BUT, it doesn’t seem right. Wouldn’t there be exactly the same amount of drink being served whether or not it’s on the rocks or neat? If it were on the rocks, there would APPEAR to me more in the glass, but the amount should be the same.

Please advise…I think the $1.00 charge was wrong in principal.


January 2, 2012 at 7:47 pm
(12) Sting says:

It doesn’t matter, Up/Neat/Rocks Should still be an ounce and a half pour. Scotch on the rocks, no matter the size of the glass, is still an ounce and a half pour on ice.

April 17, 2012 at 7:32 am
(13) Sinvex says:

The one dollar charge was because the bartender was either stupid or lazy and gages the amount of liquor by how full the glass is instead of actually measuring.

Thus the charge for extra booze.

June 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm
(14) Robert says:

mixed drinks all have1.5 ounces, if a person asks for it on the rocks the pour is then upped to 2.0 ounces i.e. ill have a jack on the rocks, that pour turns into 2.0 not 1.5

December 25, 2012 at 5:57 pm
(15) andy says:

would serving whiskey with chilled whisky rocks be considered neat? I guess im asking is it neat strictly because it is room temp or because there is no water diluted from ice (as in straight up)?

January 26, 2013 at 2:12 pm
(16) Richard says:

Neat actually means poured directly from the bottle to the glass with no chilling. When a spirit is served neat it should be a larger pour than if in a mixed drink, e.g., 2 or 2 1/2 oz vs 1 1/2 oz.

April 6, 2013 at 11:58 am
(17) Roger says:

I saw a travel story and the expression about some liquor was that “they pour their liquor steep”. I don’t know what that means. From the gist of the article, it seemed to mean undiluted in large quantities. Can you elaborate on this? Or have you heard this expression?

May 4, 2013 at 7:01 pm
(18) Lila says:

“Neat” usually refers to scotch whisk(e)y poured from the bottle room temperature into an “old fashioned” glass (a short, sipping glass like the ones that come with the deluxe Jack Daniels presents). Most people order a double to fill up the glass. Example: “Double scotch, neat, please.” :)

Straight up is chilled and strained, like she said.

May 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm
(19) Robert Burns says:

I’ve been in the bar business for twenty years and have been a head bartender at many very upscale restaurants serving 25 year old scotch and way over priced cognacs..

Straight up: Served chilled and usually in a cocktail glass. 3 to 3.5 ounce pour.

Straight: Either straight up or neat. This term is used by people who may be unfamiliar with bar terms. If someone orders a “vodka straight” chances are they mean srtaight up. If someone orders a “whiskey straight” chances are.they mean neat.

Neat: Poured from bottle to glass with no ice. Served in either a snifter or a rocks glass. This is NOT A SHOT. 3 to 3.5 ounces.

Shot: 1.5 ounces in a shot glass, chilled or no.

Tall: A mixed drink served in a larger glass but with no extra liquor. Extra mixer is added instead (soda etc.)

Double: Double liquor with the normal amount of mixer.

May 27, 2013 at 11:07 pm
(20) Michael says:

OK, so I typically order “Jameson’s, splash of water, no ice.”

Ignore the fact that about half the time I still get it on the rocks because the state of bartending in America is pretty miserable…is there a shorter way to order that?

In fact, I’m starting to think I need to specify “small splash of water”, because about a third of the time that it doesn’t come on the rocks, it comes mixed about 50/50 whiskey and water.

May 28, 2013 at 8:56 am
(21) cocktails says:


I think your “Jameson’s, splash of water, no ice” order is pretty clear. If you’re not getting what you want out of that there’s an issue with the bartender(s) and I’d be inclined to send it back. Really, how can you screw that one up?

Any lingo that may be out there to describe your drink would likely be just as confusing as this conversation proves these few words are.

August 31, 2013 at 7:58 pm
(22) Eric says:

I have been a bartender for about 200 years, so what I say is exact! Wow. In sports practice we used to say, “practice makes permanent”, because the old adage “practice makes perfect” is wrong. You can practice wrong for as many years as you would like. It seems that everyone is an expert. The bottom line is whatever the owner wants you to do, but the basic principals are the same and pretty much everyone is right or nearly right. So there you have my 200 years of experience in the most upscale restaurants and bars and another 100 years of experience in the most “hole in the wall” joints you can find. Now doesn’t that sound convincing since I have 300 years experience? So what someone taught me many years ago a shot is a shot not an ounce and it doesn’t have to be spilling out the shot glass. Mixers 1.2, on rox or up or neat 2.0, martinis 2.0 + mixers… and don’t worry every 3rd customer is going to say “I have never seen such a short pour before in my entire life”, or “I can’t taste any alcohol in this drink”… and so I forgo the tip because you can’t argue with an *ss hole. Sometimes I just say, “thanks, I make them perfectly don’t I?”. Tadaa!

April 11, 2014 at 2:14 pm
(23) Wil says:

To the last guy Eric..
If you really have been bartending for that long and still have that attitude and still don’t know how to make drinks.. Please stop. Please stop bartending.
10 years behind bars in three major cities. 3 years night clubs. (actual night clubs), 4 years upscale/high end. 3 years mixology/craft.
A shot or mixed drink – 1.5oz
A neat pour – 2oz
A rocks pour – 2oz
A martini or manhattan – 2oz spirit/1oz vermouth
A cocktail – 3oz of any variation of spirits

And yes any owner/manager at any establishment can change any and all of the way this is done. But if you want to know how it was back in the day and how it still is NOW ALL OVER THE COUNTRY than there ya go, enjoy the knowledge.

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