With the recent closing of Taphaus and Maxwell’s, coupled with the recent liquor license suspensions handed out to several Hoboken bars by the city government (prompting 1-Republik to announce it would be closing down for good and selling the business), you might be forgiven for wondering how easy it’s going to be to get a drink in the coming weeks. LepreCon and similar events crowd natives out of bars that are already regularly packed with non-residents on the weekends, and the sudden loss of a half dozen watering holes can’t be good for your wait times at the bar.
No one imagines that Hoboken’s going to be a dry city any time soon, of course, and you’ll no doubt have plenty of options for getting a cocktail, don’t worry. But if you’re starting to think you might want an insurance plan, a way to relax with a sophisticated cocktail at home without having to deal with the drama of the Hoboken bar scene, the solution is simple: You just need a Well.
Go to the Well
If you’ve ever heard the term “well drink” and not known what it means, it’s simple: Every bartender has an area below the bar, usually near the taps, where they keep common liquors and mixers, usually the inexpensive stuff. This is commonly referred to as the Well (sometimes as the Rail), and is set up for easy access. This way when the bar is busy and someone shouts out a drink order, the bartender can lean down and mix it up super fast. That’s a Well Drink.
What’s in the Well varies from place to place and bartender to bartender, but it tends to be basic stuff, not top-shelf. When you order a Scotch and Soda without specifying the Scotch, you’ll get Well Scotch. That’s how it works.
So, to replicate the bar experience at home, all you need is a Well of your own (and a bartender’s handbook for any drink that isn’t two ingredients and very forgiving, like Vodka and Cranberry).
So what’s in a Well? Generally, at minimum, you’ll need a decent bottle representing the main liquors: Gin, rum, whiskey and bourbon, vodka, and tequila. Since your house is also The House, you can select your House Brand of these—and you can always have different kinds of whiskey, say, if you’re the type to adhere to specific types for specific drinks. You’ll want some triple sec and vermouth, as well, and maybe cranberry juice if that’s your thing.
Basically, your Well reflects what you want to drink, and offers options. With a decent Well you can make a wide variety of cocktails. For example, if you want to relive your college days and have a Long Island Iced Tea, you’ve got everything you need (vodka, tequila, rum, triple sec, and gin) to make one—save the cola that’s usually splashed in to give it color, but you don’t actually need that.
So, if you’re worried about the Hoboken bar experience this year, take a break, set up a Well at home, and invite some friends over for some grown-up cocktails. Just remember to hide the top-shelf stuff somewhere where your friends won’t find it.