Mixology 101: Rail Mixer Suggestions

by Andrew Connor, Columnist


I tend to be a little bit critical of other people when it comes to their alcohol choices.  In fact, I actually once laughed at someone for mixing Fleischman’s vodka and orange soda.  This is because I prescribe to the notion of, “pay more and drink less.”  There’s a nasty world out there full of detox, sexually transmitted diseases, and Bruno Mars music, and it’s all facilitated by bottom-shelf liquor.  This being said, we’re college students, and cheap liquor is the great facilitator of weekend interactions. In actuality, low-end liquor isn’t so bad, so rather than criticize, I’m going to help you all because I’m such a philanthropic guy.

When you go to the bar and order a mixed drink, you’re essentially choosing from two types of liquor: rail (or well) liquor and call liquor.  Rail liquors are the bottom shelf brands that every bar has stocked bellow the bar in the rail, out of sight of the patron. Call drinks are often displayed on a shelf for barflies to see, and are often premium or semi-premium brands that must be specifically requested.  While I’m a big proponent of call liquors, many bars will offer rail specials, and it’s the most cost effective way to getting boozed up. But, instead of the typical Rum & Cokes and Vodka Sodas you see in the hands of college-aged lushes in every bar across Madison, there are a couple drinks you can order that will grant you the rail special prices while mixing up your drinking routine.


Tom Collins

Gin is a love it or hate it type of liquor, and while it’s the only clear liquor that doesn’t make me feel like I’m on the set of an episode of Cougartown, I really only ever use it in the ubiquitous Gin & Tonic. However, since we’re trying to be alternative here, give the Tom Collins a try instead of the ol’ G&T.

  •  1.5oz Dry Gin
  • Collins Mix
  • Garnish with a lemon wedge and cherry

Consideration: Generally you are supposed to use 2oz of lemon juice, a teaspoon of simple syrup, and club soda. However, most bars won’t consider this a rail drink unless they have premixed Collins mix.


 Sea Breeze or Bay Breeze

The Cape Cod (Vodka Cranberry) has been a staple for sorority girls and effeminate bros for years now for good reason: it’s a delicious, simple drink. Don’t ever feel ashamed for ordering one.  Yet, I bet you didn’t realize that by adding just one other type of juice you could make it better.  Enter the Sea Breeze and Bay Breeze.

Sea Breeze:

  • 1.5oz Vodka
  • Cranberry juice
  • Grapefruit Juice

Bay Breeze:

  • 1.5oz Vodka
  • Cranberry Juice
  • Pineapple Juice


I’m sort of cheating here, as this drink is usually made with blended scotch, bourbon, or rye whiskey, and while it’s not always common to offer these specific liquor types as a rail, it doesn’t hurt to ask. If you’re in the unfortunate situation where these are not offered as rail liquors, regular whiskey does an alright job of filling the void.  If you usually find yourself getting a Whiskey & Coke, this may be the refreshing change you need.

  •  1.5oz Scotch, Bourbon, or Whiskey
  • Club Soda
  • Ginger Ale
  • Lemon Twist/Garnish

Amaretto Stone Sour

This is going to be a hit or miss, as only some bars will offer Amaretto as a rail liquor.  However, if you’ve been blessed with cheap Amaretto I highly encourage you to order this in place of anything else.

  • 2oz Amaretto
  • 2oz Sour Mix/Soda
  • 2oz Orange Juice

Consideration: You can forego the orange juice and make this just an Amaretto Sour, which is fine…I guess.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *