Terminology 101: What Does Neat Mean In Bartending?

what does neat mean in bartending
Joe | Last Updated: November 19, 2023
I'm Joe, a veteran bartender with over a decade in the industry and a burning passion for mixing drinks.

The terminology used in the bartending industry can be confusing to say the least, especially to those that don’t find themselves in bars very often.

Straight up, part, burnt, on the rocks, and bruising are just some of the terms you’ll hear thrown around in bars, so if you’ve ever found yourself wondering what on earth some of these terms mean, you’re not alone.

One of the terms you may have come across is “neat”, which doesn’t refer to something being done with skill and precision or a place/thing being clean and tidy as the word is commonly used.

So what does neat mean in bartending? In this post, we’ll delve deeper into the word “neat” to ensure you’re in the know about this commonly used bartending term.

So let’s get cracking…

What Does Neat Mean In Bartending?

In bartending, the term “neat” refers to a way of serving spirits or liquors without any additional mixers such as ice or water, it’s when the bartender pours the drink straight from the bottle into the glass and serves it at room temperature.

Voila! Now you know.

This method of serving liquor is used when patrons want to savor the full flavor and aroma of a particular spirit without any dilution.

what does neat mean in bartending
Photo by Thomas Park

“Neat” is one of the more straightforward bartending terms that is often used for brandy, bourbon, and whiskey but can be used for any spirit if preferred.

Customers will often sip their neat drinks slowly to really enjoy the complexity and quality of the spirit, but those that are looking to get tanked may just shoot it.

Each to their own.

Why Do People Drink Neat?

People drink neat for a variety of reasons, with the most common being to savor and appreciate the complexity of a high-quality spirit.

You see, when adding ice and mixers to a spirit it weakens the taste of the drink and makes it more palatable for some people, but others prefer the “strong” taste over a diluted drink.

The additives mask and sometimes alter the taste of the liquor, so drinking neat is a way to appreciate the original taste of a spirit.

It’s also a great way to compare the taste of different spirits. Neat drinking is a way for drinkers to discern the subtle nuances between different spirits and decide which one they like best.

Oftentimes when someone has found a spirit they like, they’ll stick with it and enjoy drinking neat as opposed to adding other ingredients such as ice and mixers.

It’s also fewer calories to drink neat as opposed to loading the drink with a mixer that is full of sugars and additives.

Some people prefer to drink neat as it’s a more potent way of consuming alcohol that will get them drunk much quicker than drinking with a mixer.

Without any dilution or mixer, the alcohol content in a neat drink is more concentrated, meaning that it taxes less liquor to become intoxicated, which can be both a good or a bad thing.

what does neat mean in bartending
Photo by Inspo

A couple of neat drinks in your system and you’re well on your way to a good night, but keep in mind that drinking neat can be a lot stronger than mixed drinks, so be sure to drink responsibly and in moderation.

Last but not least, drinking neat is seen as a more sophisticated way of drinking alcohol, so you may find that people prefer this method as it’s seen as more “classy”.

Alcohol enthusiasts are more likely to drink neat than those that are simply out to have a good time, but regardless of your preferred way of consumption, drinking neat is a great way to really enjoy the taste of liquor.

Give it a try, but be careful!

What Is The Difference Between Neat And Straight Up?

While “neat” and “straight up” are often used interchangeably, they actually refer to different ways of serving an alcoholic drink.

As discussed, serving “neat” means that the spirit is served at room temperature without any dilution or added ingredients, straight from the bottle to the glass.

Whereas straight-up means that the spirit is chilled by shaking or stirring with ice before being strained into a glass and served without ice.

Essentially, serving a drink neat will always be done with a room-temperature spirit, but serving a straight-up drink will involve chilling the spirit before and then serving it.

The difference is subtle which is why the two terms are often used interchangeably, but it’s important to know the difference especially if you’re a bartender.

what does neat mean in bartending
Photo by Ryan Parker

Serving drinks straight-up is often used for cocktails that are typically served cold, such as a Daquiri or Martini, whereas serving neat is generally reserved for room-temperature drinks such as brandy and whiskey.

What Drinks Are Commonly Ordered Neat?

Below are just some of the drinks that are commonly ordered neat:

  • Whisky
  • Brandy
  • Bourbon
  • Rum
  • Gin
  • Tequila
  • Vodka
  • Sherry
  • Absinthe

Wrapping Up

To wrap up, the bartending term “neat” refers to when a drink is served at room temperature directly from the bottle into a glass without any dilution or ingredients.

It’s a common way for people to drink spirits and allows for a slower drinking experience to savor and enjoy the taste and quality of a spirit.

Whiskey, bourbon, and brandy are commonly drunk neat, but technically any drink can be drunk neat if it’s your preferred method of drinking alcohol.

But it’s important to keep in mind that whilst drinking neat allows you to really savor the liquor, it can intoxicate you much quicker as the alcohol content is more concentrated.

If you’ve never tried drinking your favorite spirit neat then I encourage you to give it a go, but please be careful and always drink in moderation and responsibly.