What Is Rail Gin? Everything You Need to Know About a Bartender’s Go-To Spirit
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What Is Rail Gin? Everything You Need to Know About a Bartender’s Go-To Spirit

A rail gin is a bar’s go-to and most cost-efficient gin, likely to be used in easy-to-make well drinks. (Photo: Brett Sayles/Pexels)

If you’ve found yourself at a bar, you’ve most likely heard the terms rail drink, house drink or well drink. These terms all mean the same thing and simply refer to any of a bar’s go-to — and usually easy-to-make — cocktails using a cheap, readily available spirit. So where does a rail gin stand?

What Is Rail Gin?

The rail in the term “rail drink” refers to a bar’s “speed rail,” an area located either right behind or in front of a bartender. This easy-access shelf is going to hold all of the bar’s most-used spirits. Thus, a rail gin is a bar’s go-to gin that is within easy reach of the bartender.

A rail gin does not refer to just one brand of gin, but really any cost-efficient gin the bar chooses to keep in stock.

Rail gins you may be most familiar with are going to be the most popular middle-shelf spirits. This means a rail gin will be neither bottom-of-the-barrel cheap nor too expensive to reliably use in house drinks.

Which Gins are Rail Gins?

Since there is no one rail gin to rule them all, expect to receive a variety of gin brands as you hop from bar to bar.

Still, based on what makes a rail gin a rail gin, we can take a pretty good guess at what gins may be in your next well gin cocktail. Expect to see Beefeater, Tanqueray, G&J Greenall’s, Seagram’s, Bombay Sapphire or Gordon’s at your local pub or bar. This also means a rail gin will most likely be a London dry, a style of gin that the average imbiber is expecting when ordering a bar’s well gin and tonic.

Rail Gin Cocktails

Since a rail drink is usually a bar’s most affordable cocktail, don’t anticipate ordering a well Ramos Fizz anytime soon — even if that would be pretty sweet. A rail drink cocktail is most likely going to be two to three ingredients, garnished with something neat and simple like a lime wedge. 

The most popular rail gin cocktail is a gin and tonic. Other rail gin cocktails are ones made with staple mixers like cranberry juice, grapefruit juice, lemonade, soda water, cola, citrus soda or orange juice. Additional rail gin cocktails could be a martini, Tom Collins, gimlet, Negroni, Gin Rickey or Greyhound.

Also, any common well drink that is made with vodka can be elevated by ordering it with gin. Try a gin and cranberry for yourself and see the difference.


Read next:

What is Gin Made From?

5 Best Gins for Beginners

7 Must-Try Riffs on the Beloved Gin and Tonic

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Candie Getgen is the managing editor for Gin Raiders. Before immersing herself in the world of spirits journalism, Candie has been many things: a bartender, a literary journal editor, an English teacher — and even a poet. Now, Candie shares her passion for gin with the world and hopes to help others fall in love with it, too (if they haven't already!). When not writing, Candie enjoys sipping an extra-dry martini while painting or relaxing by the pool with a campy mystery novel.