I walk into a bar and order a drink. The bartender may ask me:
Do you want that on the rocks?
I usually respond "Yes" or "No"

Is there a colloquial expression for not on the rocks?

  • 11
    I can certainly answer this one. straight up.
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 14:41
  • +1's all around. This also led me to research what a "whiskey sour, straight down" is, but it turns out to just be a subatomic pun.
    – Patrick M
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 15:20
  • I'd almost swear I once heard a bartender tell me that they used the phrase "on the rails", but I can't (after a very cursory search) find a use of it. Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 16:02
  • 4
    neat is the answer, of course. It sounds much more proper/refined/classy than straight too.
    – Aaron Hall
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 20:14

5 Answers 5


Although straight is used, that can also simply mean unmixed with anything else, but it can be chilled with ice.

The unambiguous word would be neat, meaning no ice and no other drinks mixed in.

See also this cocktails.about.com link for a short explanation:

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 [it] 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).

  • 2
    Huh, OK. I would never use straight for anything that was adulterated in any way, ice included. I wonder if that's regional.
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 12:16
  • 1
    I am quite sure it is regional. Just to be sure I usually specify "no ice", unless I know that they know what neat means. But it's tough nowadays getting a decent dry martini... so I never assume too much :)
    – oerkelens
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 12:21
  • neat just means no water in it .. why mention that one? this is about ice right?
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 14:42
  • actually i see what you mean. I better go sober up :)
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 14:44
  • Just a little kicker: if you're ordering a margarita, your alternative to "on the rocks" is probably "frozen", i.e. like a slushie... however, I think that's an exception, rather than a useful rule.
    – Dancrumb
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 15:54

Well, the classics are straight in its sense of (from the online Merriam-Webster):

free from extraneous matter : unmixed <straight whiskey>

and neat, defined by the same source as

free from admixture or dilution : straight <neat brandy>

Neither is particularly colloquial but both are perfectly common, idiomatic English.

  • @oerkelens straight whiskey does not contain ice and woe the barman who would dare put ice in my requested straight Caol Ila. I was just adding neat while you were writing that comment though :).
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 12:15
  • Bars overcharge for good whiskey so I prefer to have it at home. And the missus knows better than to put ice in it, whether I ask for it straight, neat or otherwise — provided I ask it nicely :)
    – oerkelens
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 12:18
  • Ila needs ice to cut the damned peat smell (runs back to the east coast :) )
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 14:43
  • 1
    @JoeBlow run fast ;). And Caol Ila is the least peaty of all the Islays.
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 15:23
  • you could be right terdon, a fine point. i recommend glenfarclas as a complement if you come over to the Other Side
    – Fattie
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 16:48

"Off the rocks". I've heard it as a joke quite a few times, and I suppose any barman would understand that request.

  • 'off the rocks, neat' will cover you.
    – Vinay W
    Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 6:26

Straight and neat are synonyms for drinks. Typically I have seen/heard neat used for colored alcohols and straight for clear alcohol.

Personally, I always use "neat".


Neat is what you say when ordering a whiskey without ice.

From Google: https://www.google.com/search?q=define%3A+neat

(of liquid, especially liquor) not diluted or mixed with anything else.

"he drank neat Scotch"

synonyms: undiluted, straight, unmixed; informal straight up "neat gin"

  • This means ordering a whiskey without water, though I suppose the end result is the same if you leave it for long enough... Commented Sep 20, 2014 at 14:10

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