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100 Cocktail Terms Every Enthusiast Should Know
♦1. Absinthe: Absinthe is a distilled spirit with a distinct anise flavor. Although banned for decades due to supposed hallucinogenic properties, the rumors were dismissed and the American government relaxed restrictions on the green drink.
2. Agave: A succulent native to Mexico and the American Southwest used to make tequila and agave nectar.
3. Aging: The process of storing distilled spirits or wine in wooden barrels for specific lengths of time to remove jarring flavors and add a unique essence from the wood.
4. Amaretto: A sweet, almond-flavored liqueur, distilled from apricot pits or almonds.
5. Añejo: Añejo translates to aged and refers to aged tequila. Añejo tequila is typically aged 1-3 years in oak barrels.
6. Angel’s Share: While a spirit ages in a barrel, a small amount evaporates, known as the angel’s share.
7. Aromatic Bitters: A category of bitters that use a root as the base flavor.
8. Bar Spoon: A long-stemmed spoon with a spiral-handle used for preparing stirred drinks.
9. Bitters: Glycerin or high-proof alcohol mixed with seeds, fruits, leaves, roots, bark and herbs. This bitter compound is added into cocktails for a layer of complexity.
10. Blend: A cocktail-making technique where one places ingredients into an electronic blender and blends until smooth.
11. Boston Shaker: A device used to mix cocktails by shaking. When using a Boston Shaker, place the larger metal half over the 16 ounce mixing glass.
12. Bourbon: An American form of whiskey that is made from distilling a mash of at least 51% corn, with the rest being either malted barley, wheat or rye. The distilled liquor is stored for at least 2 years in charred white oak barrels, giving it a distinct smoky flavor.
13. Brandy: A spirit distilled from primarily grapes, but also fermented fruit mashes, such as apples, peaches, and plums. Most brandies are barrel-aged, however, some are bottled clear and un-aged, such as grappa.
14. Build In Glass: A preparation technique where cocktail ingredients are combined directly into the glass in which they are served.
15. Campari: An Italian liqueur, known for its red color and bitter flavor.
16. Canadian Whisky: Canadian Whisky must be distilled exclusively from grains, like corn, rye, and barley, although corn is the most prominent. The whisky must also legally be aged at least three years in Canada in wooden barrels and be at least 80 proof. Canadian Whisky tends to be lighter and smoother than other styles of whisky.
17. Cask: A cask is another name for the wooden barrels used to store spirits. Sometimes charred, casks can impart unique flavors such as smoke, vanilla and caramel into the spirits it’s storing.
18. Cognac: A subset of Brandy, Cognac is a French brandy made in the Cognac region from ugni blanc grapes. Cognac must be aged at least two years in limosin or troncais oak barrels.
19. Collins Glass: This cylindrical glass holds 10-14 fluid ounces and is used to serve mixed drinks. It is narrower and slightly taller than its highball glass cousin.
20. Cordial: Synonymous with liqueur in the United States, a cordial is a sweetened spirit.
21. Curaçao: Named after a Caribbean island where bitter oranges are grown, Curaçao is a liqueur flavored with the dried peel of the citrus fruit.
22. Dash: A rough measurement used to indicate a very small amount, often used with bitters in cocktail recipes.
23. Digestif: Typically a fortified wine or distilled liquor. It is a drink reserved for after dinner.
24. Dirty: To make a drink dirty means to change the color and taste slightly by changing an essential ingredient, typically for a martini. For example, a dirty martini adds a splash of olive juice, which clouds the color and adds a briny flavor.
25. Distillation: The process of purifying spirits, where the fermented product is heated to separate the alcohol from the water. Distillation typically takes place in a pot still or a column still.
26. Double Strain: A drink preparation technique where you use two strainers, typically a Hawthorn strainer and fine mesh strainer, for pouring the drink into the serving glass to prevent any small particles from entering the finished cocktail.
27. Dram: Typically used to describe scotch, the word dram derives from the Gaelic word meaning “drink”. Originally, a dram meant a liquid measurement of 1/8 of an ounce, but has been adapted to mean a small sip or drink of alcohol.
28. Dry: Dryness in a drink means it has more bitterness and less sweetness. Most often, you hear someone order a dry martini. A dry martini uses dry vermouth sparingly at a 5:1 gin to vermouth ratio. An extra-dry martini will only have a drop or two of vermouth in it.
29. Ethyl Alcohol: Also known as grain alcohol, ethyl alcohol is the intoxicating ingredient in any spirit, wine or beer.
30. Fermentation: The process in which sugars are converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide by using various agents such as yeast or bacteria.
31. Fifth: A measurement for a liquor bottle meaning one-fifth of a gallon, or 750ml.
32. Fizz: A mixed drink category that features an acidic element, such as lemon juice, a sweetener, a base spirit, and carbonated water.
33. Float: A mixology skill for creating layered drinks. The heaviest ingredient goes on the bottom, and then a bar spoon is held upside down. The lighter liquid is slowly poured over the back of the spoon and on to the top of the drink, so that it is floating.
34. Garnish: A garnish is a decorative object, typically edible, placed in or on a cocktail to enhance the appearance.
35. Ginger Beer: Like root beer, ginger beer is non-alcoholic. It is a ginger-flavored carbonated drink.
36. Grenadine: A thick, bright-red syrup that is traditionally made from pomegranates. This cocktail syrup is non-alcoholic.
37. Hawthorne Strainer: One of two types of popular strainers. The Hawthorne strainer consists of a disc, which has a coiled spring attached. The spring traps large chunks and works best with a mixing tin.
38. Highball: A highball is a drink composed of a spirit, typically whiskey, mixed with a carbonated beverage in a 1:2 ratio. It’s served in a tall glass, known as a highball glass, over ice.
39. Iced: A bartending term that refers to any drink recipe that requires the glass be filled with ice.
40. Infuse: A method of imparting flavor into a liquid by soaking herbs, spices or fruits in it for a length of time.
41. Irish Whiskey: Made in Ireland, Irish Whiskey is comprised predominantly of the fermented mash of barley. It’s aged for three years in wooden casks. Unlike its Scottish cousin, Irish Whiskey mash is usually dried in kilns or ovens, rather than over a peat fire, giving it a lighter flavor.
42. Jigger: A conical measuring tool used to make single drinks. Typically 1½ ounces, it can vary in size from ½ to 2 ounces.
43. Julep Cup: A silver or tin cup that a mint julep is traditionally served in.
44. Julep Strainer: Originally designed for mint juleps, this strainer is bowl-shaped with perforations and a spoon-like handle. The julep strainer is designed for straining drinks from a mixing glass.
45. Kentucky: While you may know Kentucky as one of 50 states, bourbon enthusiasts know it as the birthplace of their favorite spirit. While bourbon is produced in other states as well, many favorite brands, such as Jim Beam® and Maker’s Mark® are produced in Kentucky.
46. Kosher Salt: Because of its larger grain size, kosher salt is the most commonly used salt when garnishing the rim of a drink.
47. Layered: Using the floating method, mentioned above, layered cocktails are cocktails that maintain separate, visible layers.
48. Liqueur: An alcoholic product containing at least 2.5% sugar. Often times, liqueurs add in fruits, creams, flowers, and herbs for flavor and color. Liqueur is synonymous with cordial.
49. Liquor: A distilled spirit, typically with a higher alcohol content than that of beer or wine.
50. Lowball: A broad term used for a drink that is served in a lowball glass, also known as a rocks glass or old fashioned glass.
51. Mash: A mixture of crushed malt or grains and water that is converted into fermentable sugar. Alcohol is distilled from the fermented mash.
52. Mezcal: A Mexican spirit made from agave. While tequila is a form of mescal, not all mescal is tequila. Mescal typically is smoky because the agave piña is baked in underground pits filled with hot rocks and wood.
53. Mist: A spirit served over crushed ice.
54. Mixer: A non-alcoholic ingredient in a cocktail or mixed drink, typically a soda or juice.
55. Mixto: A type of tequila that is comprised of at least 51% agave sugars with the remaining sugars coming from other sources.
56. Muddler: A bartending tool, typically wooden, used to crush fruit, sugar or herbs in a glass.
57. Muddling: A mixology technique in which a person users a blunt tool, called a muddler, to mash fruits, sugar or herbs into a drink, imparting unique flavors and textures.
58. Mull: The process of adding spices, sugar and fruit to a hot beverage.
59. Neat: A type of drink where the spirit is served in a lowball glass without ice or water.
60. Nightcap: A drink that is consumed before bed time.
61. Old Fashioned Glass: Also known as a rocks glass or lowball, an old fashioned glass holds about six to eight ounces of liquid.
62. On The Rocks: A drink order that refers to liquor or liqueur being served over cubed ice.
63. Orange Bitters: A type of alcohol-based bitter flavored with the bitter peel of oranges.
64. Pour Spout: A rubber or metal attachment that fits on the neck of the bottle that helps with a cleaner pour and regulating the flow of liquid.
65. Proof: An American standard for measuring the alcohol content in a distilled spirit or liqueur. The proof is double the percentage of alcohol so 40% alcohol equals 80-proof.
66. Prohibition: A time in American history, from 1920 to 1933, in which the federal government banned the production, transportation and sale of alcohol. Prohibition affected everything from popular bitters to whiskey sales.
67. Punch: A multi-serving drink, made with five ingredient variations: sugar, spirits, water, spice and citrus. Punch is served in large bowls.
68. Quinine: An extract from the cinchona tree. In the 17th century, British colonists in India adopted and consumed this substance as a tonic with sugar and soda water. Today, most tonic water contains synthetic quinine.
69. Rim: A mixology term for coating the rim of a cocktail glass in sugar or salt.
70. Rocks Glass: Also known as a lowball or old fashioned glass, a rocks glass typically holds about six to eight ounces of liquid.
71. Rum: A tropical spirit, distilled from fermented sugarcane or sugarcane molasses.
72. Rye: A whiskey typically produced in America or Canada, distilled from a mash containing a minimum of 51% rye, with the rest being a mix of wheat, corn and malted barley.
73. Schnapps: A clear alcohol often flavored with fruit and spices.
74. Scotch: A whisky produced in Scotland from malted barley and aged for three years in oak barrels. Most scotch has a distinct smoky flavor from drying the malt with a peat fire.
75. Shaken: Shaking is the process of chilling a drink with ice and mixing the ingredients by moving it back and forth swiftly in a shaker. It is a more thorough method of mixing than stirring, however it can leave certain ingredients foamy and cloudy.
76. Shaker: A device used to mix cocktails by shaking. There are three types of shakers. 1) The Boston Shaker, which is made up of a tin can and tempered glass. 2) A cobbler shaker, a large metal tumbler with a metal lid and built-in strainer. 3) The French shaker, a metal tumbler with a metal lid.
77. Sherry: Made in the Jerez de la Frontera district of Spain, sherry is a fortified wine. There are two types of sherry, dry and sweet, the latter being a dessert wine.
78. Shot Glass: A small serving glass used to serve shots or shooters. Shot glasses can range in size, though they commonly come in 1 to 1½ ounces.
79. Simple Syrup: Simple syrup is sugar dissolved in water. It’s a basic ingredient of many cocktails and bartenders prefer mixing with simple syrup versus granulated sugar because the crystals are already dissolved and won’t sink to the bottom of a glass.
80. Single Malt: Malt whiskey or scotch made at a single distillery and not blended with any other malt.
81. Sour: A sour is a type of mixed drink made from a base liquor, a citrus, such as lemon or lime juice, and a sweetener. Some examples of sours are a margarita, a whiskey sour and a sidecar.
82. Sour Mix: A mix made of approximately equal parts lemon or lime juice and simple syrup. Often times, you can purchase premade sour mix.
83. Spirit: A distilled alcohol with an alcohol content of at least 20%.
84. Splash: An imprecise measurement used in mixology that indicates a very small amount of liquid, slightly larger than a dash, but less than ½ ounce. Most often used in reference to water, mixers or syrups.
85. Stirred: A term used when the ingredients need to be gently mixed, often with a bar spoon. Stirring works best with clear spirits.
86. Straight Up: This term generally refers to a drink that is shaken or stirred with ice and then strained and served sans ice. Occasionally it is confused with the term “neat.”
87. Tall: A drink order that refers to a cocktail served in a tall glass, such as a Collins glass, over ice, with a non-alcoholic mixer.
88. Tequila: A spirit produced in the Jalisco state of Mexico from the Weber Blue Agave. Tequila is clear or golden and is often served in mixed drinks or as a shot with salt and lime.
89. Toddy: A hot drink composed of a base spirit, usually rum or whiskey, plus sugar, water and sometimes spices.
90. Tonic Water: A bitter carbonated drink made with quinine and sugar. It is often used as a mixer with gin and vodka.
91. Triple Sec: A sweet, orange-flavored liqueur made from brandy and orange peels. It is often used as a mixer in cocktails like the margarita or Long Island Iced Tea.
92. Twist: A type of garnish that utilizes the peel of a lemon, lime or orange. A twist releases essential oils into the drink, dispersing a citrusy scent and flavor.
93. Up: Another way to order a cocktail “straight up”. Up is a drink that has been shaken or stirred with ice, but then strained to remove the ice before serving.
94. Vermouth: A fortified wine flavored with aromatic herbs. There are two styles of Vermouth, sweet or dry, and it is often used in famous cocktails like the martini.
95. Virgin: A term referring to a cocktail prepared without alcohol.
96. Vodka: A clear spirit of Russian origin made primarily from grains, but can also be made from potatoes, fruits, or sugars. Vodka is typically distilled and then bottled un-aged at 80-proof or higher.
97. Wedges: A wedge is a triangular chunk of fruit (typically lemon, lime or orange) used to garnish a drink.
98. Wet: Wet typically refers to a martini style made with more vermouth. Rather than the standard 4:1 gin to vermouth ratio, a wet martini utilizes a 3:1 ratio or a 1:1 ratio for an extra wet martini.
99. Wheel: A wheel is a common type of garnish made by cutting a fruit across so it creates a circular shape, about ¼ inch thick. A small slit is made in the wheel and placed on the rim of a drink.
100. Whisky/Whiskey: A broad drink category for spirits distilled from the fermented mash of corn, rye, barley or wheat. The USA and Ireland spell whiskey with an “ey”, whereas in Scotland and Canada, the extra “e” is omitted.