Rail Gin in Cocktails - Learn What It Is and Which are Best

By Timo Torner / Last updated on April 23, 2024

Rail Gins are typically a bar's go-to-Gin when it comes to making the standard Gin cocktails on the menu. But what is it exactly, which brands are most popular, and what cocktail should you order? Let us clear things up a bit.
Rail Gin brands bottles

With thousands of Gin brands on the market and so many different categories, many people tend to be overwhelmed when ordering cocktails based on Gin in a bar.

On top, most standard drinks on the menu are made with rail liquor.

And if you're asking yourself now what rail Gin actually is, you're at the right place. We'll clear this question up. Also, we'll give insights on what Gin cocktail you should order based on the specific rail Gin and which questions you can ask the bar staff to make the most out of their selection.

What exactly is a rail Gin?

A rail Gin is the go-to-Gin of a bartender and within easy reach, usually right in front of him. It's used in most of the bar's Gin cocktails and often hidden from a customer's view. To avoid surprises, you can ask your bartender up front what brand they're using as rail Gin.

The term rail refers to the "speed rail" section, located within easy reach of a bartender. That, of course, is not limited to Gin but includes other liquor types like Whiskey, Rum, Tequila, Vodka, or Brandy.

Is there a difference between well Gin, rail Gin, and house Gin?

There's no difference between those terms. Well Gin, house Gin, and rail Gin are just different words describing the same thing. It simply means that your standard Gin cocktail orders will be made with it. 

Some bars, especially cocktail bars, sometimes have more than one rail Gin on offer.

What makes a great rail Gin?

A stand-out rail Gin is of good quality, very versatile, and affordable. Ideally, it's a great option for both, a bar patron and the owner of a bar. 

Versatility is often measured by how well a Gin performs in the most-ordered drinks. These are often Gin and Tonic, Martini, Gin & Juice, Gin Sour, and Gin Fizz.

In budget-friendly establishments or corner bars, the rail Gin typically is a low-end option like Gilbey's or Seagram's. In cocktail bars, you can often see Beefeater Gin or other classic brands like Tanqueray or Gordon's.

The Most Popular Rail Gin Brands

There's not one brand that trumps every other. It depends on many factors, like the kind of bar, the cocktail menu, the preferences of the head bartender, etc.

In a cocktail bar, the best rail Gin brands you'll come across are mid-shelf Gins of good quality that all work excellently in classic drink recipes. This list includes:

  • Beefeater
  • Bombay Sapphire
  • Ford's 
  • Gordon's
  • Tanqueray

When visiting your local pub or corner bar, you'll most likely see lower-end Gins like:

  • Burnett's 
  • Fleischmann's
  • Gilbey's
  • Glenmore
  • Seagram's

What stands out here, is that most of the Gins are London Drys. That only makes sense as London Dry style Gins are the most-used style in cocktails. Hence, customers expect their drinks to be made with this juniper-forward style.

This list is by no means complete but covers many of the most-common rail Gins. Depending on where you go, you can also find local brands used as rail Gins. That is a great way to promote local products - so, bar owners often get these at relatively low prices.

The Best Rail Gin brands compared

To give you an idea of how the brands mentioned compare, here's a chart (in alphabetical order) that includes ABV, price, style, and overall pros & cons. 

GinGin StyleABVPriceProCon
BeefeaterLondon Dry44%$20- Extremely versatile
- Great value for money
- Classic London Dry style
- Relatively expensive
BombayLondon Dry47%$20- Versatile
- Distinct taste
- Great value for money
- Taste differs from classic London Dry
- Relatively expensive as rail Gin
Burnett'sLondon Dry40%$8- Cheap
- London Dry flavor profile
- Lacks depth of flavors
- Ethanol taste
Fleischmann'sDry Gin40%$7- Cheap
- Classic juniper-forward mixed with spicy notes
- Easily overpowered by other ingredients
- Not good in cocktails
Ford'sContemporary45%$27- Distinct taste
- Great in cocktails
- Relatively expensive
- Lacks juniper notes
- Relatively expensive
Gilbey'sDry Gin40%$8- Cheap
- Good for two-ingredient Gin drinks like Gin & Juice or Gin Tonic
- Harsh taste
- Not great in cocktails
GlenmoreLondon Dry40%$7- Cheap
- Classic London Dry flavor profile
- Harsh ethanol notes
- Not great in cocktails
Gordon'sLondon Dry40%$12- Affordable
- Juniper forward London Dry Gin
- Epitome of classic Gins
- Great in Gin cocktails
- Lower-ABV than other premium options
Seagram'sLondon Dry40%$13- Affordable
- Barrel-aged
- Mixes great with juice
- Not good in cocktails
- Lacking juniper notes
TanquerayLondon Dry47%$25- Classic London Dry with amazing piney juniper taste
- Great in cocktails
- Distinct taste
- Relatively expensive
Popular Rail Gin brands compared

Great Rail Gin Cocktails based on London Dry  

Before going into detail and recommending specific cocktails to order based on the rail Gin, let's start with listing the best classic Gin cocktails to make in general:

That covers the majority of Gin drinks listed on standard bar menus. Now, some Gins work great in a simple Gin & Juice, while they're not great in a Gin and Tonic. Others work excellently in a Negroni but aren't a great fit in Aviation. 

If you want the best drink, you can ask your bartender what their rail Gin is and then decide what you order. To help you with that, we show you what drink you should order depending on each of the above-mentioned brands.

Best Rail Gin Drinks by Brand

Rail Gin BrandRecommendedDon'ts
Gin & Tonic
Bombay SapphireMartini-
Burnett'sGin & Tonic
Gin & Juice
Fleischmann'sGin Sour
Gin & Tonic
Gin & Juice
Gilbey'sGin & Juice
Gin & Tonic
GlenmoreGin & JuiceMartini
Gin Sour
Gin & Tonic
Gin & Tonic
Seagram'sGin & JuiceGin & Tonic
TanquerayGin & Tonic
Gin Sour
Gin Fizz
Rail Gin Drinks recommendation by brand

Indecisive about what to order?

So, you know the rail Gin the bar uses for its cocktails but are still unsure what to order. Here are some tips to make a better decision:

  1. Ask the bartender what tonic water they offer: If they use high-quality tonic water like Fever-Tree or Fentimans, a Gin & Tonic is a great choice. Used in a classic 1:3 ratio, you'll get a great drink.
  2. Ask the bartender about their syrups: Bars often offer special housemade syrups. That can be anything from berry-flavored syrups to fruit syrups to floral ones. If they have something you'd like to try, ask the bartender to make you a Tom Collins, Gin Sour, or Gin Fizz and use their homemade syrup instead of regular simple syrup.
  3. Let the bartender decide: Ask your bartender what he would recommend but make sure to answer his questions regarding your preferences. He needs some guidance to make the right drink for you.

Don't like the rail Gins at a bar?

The rail Gin on offer is not always what you're looking for. Especially if you're a discerned Gin drinker, chances are you want a specific Gin in your drink or at least a higher-quality one. Most bars have more options on their shelves, which will cost you a bit more but can also be way better for your taste.

Simply check out what the bar shelf offers and ask the bartender to make your cocktail with a specific Gin.


A rail Gin is not low quality per se. In fact, most cocktail bars make a great choice for their rail liquors. And it's perfectly fine to ask your waitress or bartender about the rail Gin or house Gin they use.

If it's Beefeater, Gordon's, or Tanqueray, consider yourself lucky. If it's a lower-end brand, choose your cocktail wisely or opt for a specific Gin instead.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy your drinks!

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