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Absinthe: A strong spirit distilled with botanicals like anise, wormwood, and fennel for a licorice-like flavor. For a long time, absinthe had an infamous hallucinogenic reputation, and was banned in the US in 1912. Rumors were eventually dismissed, and it was made legal again in 2007.
Agave: A succulent native to Mexico and the American Southwest. Used to make tequila and mezcal.
Aging: The process of storing distilled spirits (whiskey, rum, cognac, etc.) or wine in wooden barrels for varying lengths of time to remove jarring flavors and introduce unique character and flavor from the wood.
Amaretto: A sweet, almond-flavored liqueur, distilled from apricot pits or almonds.
Añejo: Spanish for “aged,” Añejo refers to tequila that is typically aged one to three years in oak barrels.
Angel’s Share: While a spirit ages in a barrel, a small amount evaporates. This is colloquially known as the “angel’s share.”
Aromatic Bitters: A category of bitters that use a root as the base flavor.
Bar Spoon: A long-stemmed spoon often with a spiral handle used for preparing stirred drinks.
Bitters: A concentrated infusion of high-proof alcohol or glycerin with botanicals like roots, fruits, bark, leaves and herbs. Bitters are added to cocktails to provide an extra layer of flavor and complexity.
Blend: A cocktail-making technique where one places ingredients, typically including ice or frozen fruits, into a blender and blends until smooth.
BostonShaker: A style of cocktail shaker comprised of two pieces, one small and one large. Styles include one tin and one mixing glass (glass-on-tin), or two tins (tin-on-tin). The two-piece construction allows the smaller end to fit inside the larger, helping seal the shaker and ensure no liquid gets out.
Bourbon: An American form of whiskey that is made from distilling a mash of at least 51% corn, with the rest made up of a chosen mix of malted barley, wheat and/or rye. The distilled liquor is stored for at least 2 years in new, charred oak barrels adding notes such as vanilla, caramel and oak to the spirit. Once it's been aged, no additional flavor or color can be added.
Brandy: A spirit distilled most commonly from grapes, though it can be created using fermented fruit mashes, such as apples, peaches, and plums. Most brandies are barrel aged, though some, such as grappa, are bottled clear and unaged.
BuildIn Glass: A preparation technique where cocktail ingredients are combined directly into the glass in which they are served.
Campari: An Italian liqueur known for its red color and bitter flavor.
Canadian Whisky: Canadian whisky must be distilled exclusively from grains such as corn, rye, and barley, with corn being the most prominent. The spirit must 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.
Cask: A cask is another name for the wooden barrels used to store spirits. Usually charred or toasted, the cask can impart unique flavors such as smoke, vanilla and caramel into the spirit it’s storing.
Cobbler Shaker: Also known as a three-piece shaker, the Cobbler is comprised of a large tin, a lid with a built-in strainer and a cap. The simplicity of the built-in strainer makes this a common choice for beginners.
Cognac: A grape brandy specifically made in the Cognac region of France. It is made from white grapes low in sugar with high acidity, most commonly Ugni Blanc, Colombard, and Folle Blanche. Cognac must be twice distilled, using copper pot stills, and aged for a minimum of two years in French oak barrels.
Collins Glass: This cylindrical glass typically holds around 10-14 fluid ounces and is used to serve mixed drinks. It is narrower and slightly taller than its highball glass cousin.
Cordial: A cordial can refer to a tonic, syrup, or non-alcoholic drink, and is often considered to be quite sweet. In the United States, cordial most often refers to a sweetened spirit, similar to a liqueur.
Curaçao: Named after a Caribbean island where bitter oranges are grown, Curaçao is a liqueur flavored with the dried peel of the citrus fruit.
Dash: A rough measurement used to indicate a very small amount, often used with bitters in cocktail recipes.
Digestif: An alcoholic beverage, typically a fortified wine or distilled spirit, that is often served after a meal with the intention of aiding in digestion.
Dirty: Often used in reference to a martini, meaning to add olive juice or brine.
Distillation: The process of purifying spirits, where the fermented product is heated, turning the alcohol into vapor to separate it from the water and other ingredients. The vapor is then cooled, turning it back into a liquid, now at a higher proof. Distillation typically takes place in a pot or column still.
Double Strain: A drink preparation technique where you use two strainers, typically a Hawthorne strainer and fine mesh strainer, to pour the drink into the serving glass, preventing any small particles from entering the finished cocktail.
Dram: Typically used in reference to 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.
Dry: Dryness in a drink means it has more bitterness and less sweetness. It is also a term used when ordering a martini, asking for the vermouth to be used sparingly. An extra-dry martini will only have a drop or two of vermouth in it.
Ethyl Alcohol: Also known as grain alcohol, ethyl alcohol is the intoxicating ingredient in any spirit, wine or beer.
Fermentation: The process in which sugars are converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide by using various agents such as yeast or bacteria.
Fifth: A measurement for a liquor bottle meaning one-fifth of a gallon (750ml).
Fizz: A mixed drink category that features an acidic element (such as lemon juice), a sweetener, a base spirit, and carbonated water. Typically served without ice.
Float: A skill used to create layered drinks, to float an ingredient means to pour gently on top of the drink. This technique is used when you want the liquid to “float” on top of the other ingredients and can be done by pouring over the back of a bar spoon to help keep the ingredients from mixing.
Fortified Wine: a wine produced by adding distilled spirits during or after fermentation. Fortified wines are made all over the world and are often categorized and regulated based on their specific region of origin. Madiera, port, sherry, and vermouth are examples of Fortified Wine.
Garnish: A garnish is a decorative object, typically edible, placed in or on a cocktail to enhance the appearance and aroma, as well as complement the flavor.
Ginger Beer: A non-alcoholic, ginger-flavored carbonated drink often featuring more spice and ginger flavor than traditional ginger ale.
Grenadine: A deep red syrup traditionally made from fresh pomegranate juice.
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.
Highball: A mixed alcoholic drink comprised of a base spirit (such as whiskey) and a larger proportion of a non-alcoholic mixer, often a carbonated beverage like soda water.
Iced: A bartending term that refers to any drink recipe that requires the glass be filled with ice.
Infuse: A method for imparting flavor into a liquid by soaking herbs, spices or fruits in it for a length of time.
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.
Jigger: A tool used to measure liquid ingredients for cocktails. They are made in many different shapes and sizes, but are often designed like hourglasses, combining two cone-shaped cups of different volumes.
Julep Cup: A silver or tin cup that a mint julep is traditionally served in.
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.
Kentucky: The birthplace of bourbon. While bourbon can be produced anywhere in the US, many favorite brands, such as Jim Beam® and Maker’s Mark®, are produced in Kentucky where a combination of climate, an abundance pure limestone water and other natural factors make conditions ideal for crafting “America’s spirit.”
Kosher Salt: Because of its larger grain size, kosher salt is the most commonly used salt when garnishing the rim of a drink.
Layered: Using the floating method (mentioned above) layered cocktails are cocktails that maintain separate, visible layers.
Liqueur: A sweetened spirit that has been flavored with ingredients like fruit, herbs and spices through maceration, infusion and other methods.
Liquor: Also referred to a “spirit” - an alcoholic beverage distilled from grains, fruits, or other fermentable ingredients.
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.
Mash: A mixture of crushed malt or grains and water that is converted into fermentable sugar. Alcohol is distilled from the fermented mash.
Mezcal: A Mexican spirit made from agave. While tequila is a form of mezcal, not all mezcal is tequila. Mezcal is typically smoky because the agave piña is baked in underground pits filled with hot rocks and wood.
Mist: A spirit served over crushed ice.
Mixer: A non-alcoholic ingredient in a cocktail or mixed drink, typically a soda or juice.
Mixto: A type of tequila that is comprised of at least 51% agave sugars. The remaining sugars come from other sources.
Muddler: A bartending tool used to crush fruit, sugar or herbs in a glass.
Muddling: A bartending technique in which a blunt tool, called a muddler, is used to gently mash fruits, herbs, or spices into a drink to impart unique flavors and textures.
Mull: The process of adding spices, sugar and fruit to a hot beverage.
Neat: A single, unmixed spirit served without being chilled and without any water, ice, or other mixer.
Nightcap: A drink that is consumed before bedtime or at the end of a festive evening out.
Old Fashioned Glass: Also known as a rocks glass or lowball, an old fashioned glass typically holds about six to ten ounces of liquid.
On The Rocks: A drink order that refers to liquor or liqueur being served over cubed ice.
Orange Bitters: A type of alcohol-based bitter flavored with the peel of oranges.
Peel: A garnish comprised of a large swatch of skin from a citrus fruit. In addition to visual appeal, citrus peels are full of aromatic oils which, when expressed, add depth and nuance to a finished cocktail.
Pour Spout: A rubber or metal attachment that fits on the neck of the bottle that helps streamline the flow of liquid and prevent spillage or splashing.
Proof: An American standard for measuring the alcohol content in a distilled spirit or liqueur. The proof is double the percentage of alcohol. For example, 80 proof equals 40% alcohol by volume.
Prohibition: A time in American history from 1920 to 1933 during which the federal government banned the production, transportation and sale of alcohol. Prohibition affected everything from popular bitters to whiskey sales.
Punch: A term for a wide assortment of drinks, usually containing fruit or fruit juice. It is often made in large quantities and served out of large bowls, called punch bowls.
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.
Rim: To coat the rim or side of a cocktail glass with an ingredient to help enhance the drink’s flavor or presentation. Some popular rimmed cocktails are a salt rim on a margarita or a sugar rim on a sidecar.
Rocks Glass: Also known as a lowball or old fashioned glass, a rocks glass typically holds about six to ten ounces of liquid.
Rum: A spirit distilled from fermented sugarcane or sugarcane molasses.
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.
Schnapps: An alcoholic beverage category that includes distilled fruit brandies and herbal liqueurs. In the US, Schnapps are typically sweetened, flavored liqueurs made by adding fruit syrups, spices or artificial flavorings to neutral grain spirits.
Scotch: A whisky produced in Scotland from malted barley and aged for at least three years in oak barrels. Scotland has five production regions—Highlands, Lowlands, Speyside, Campbeltown and Islay—each with their own distinct flavor nuances and styles.
Shaken: A term used for a cocktail that is mixed in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shaking a cocktail dilutes, chills, and aerates the drink—often used for drinks that include fruit juices or syrups.
Sherry: An aged, fortified wine made in Southern Spain. Sherry is made from three green grape varietals: Palomino, Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez. Palomino grapes make dry sherry, like fino, while Pedro Ximenez and Muscat grapes make sweet wines, like cream sherry.
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.
Simple Syrup: Sugar dissolved in water. It’s a basic ingredient of many cocktails. Bartenders prefer mixing with simple syrup versus granulated sugar for consistency and because the crystals are already dissolved, so they won’t sink to the bottom of a glass.
Single Malt: Malt whiskey or Scotch made at a single distillery and not blended with any other malt.
Sour: 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 the margarita, whiskey sour and sidecar.
Sour Mix: A mix made of approximately equal parts lemon or lime juice and simple syrup. While pre-made sour mix can be convenient, the Cocktail Project recommends using fresh citrus and simple syrup separately, giving you greater control over the cocktail crafting process.
Spirit: A distilled alcohol with an alcohol content of at least 20%.
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.
Stirred: A method for gently mixing cocktail ingredients, often with a bar spoon. Stirring helps preserve a more "silky" texture, especially for cocktails comprised of mostly spirits, like Old Fashioneds, Manhattans and Negronis.
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.
Tequila: A distilled spirit made from Blue Weber Agave. Tequila can only be legally produced in five states in Mexico: Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, Guanajuato and Tamaulipas – though most tequila is made in Jalisco. Tequila can be unaged (often referred to as silver, blanco, or plata) or aged in oak barrels. Aged tequila comes in three types: reposado (“rested,” aged for two months to one year), añejo (“aged,” aged for one to three years), and extra añejo (aged for over three years).
Toddy: An alcoholic cocktail typically served hot in a mug. The traditional hot toddy formula is simple: spirit (often whiskey), hot water and sweetener. This classic formula has led to riffs using other ingredients such as citrus juice, tea, apple cider and various spices.
Tonic Water: A bitter carbonated drink made with quinine and sugar. It is often used as a mixer with gin and vodka.
Triple Sec: A sweet, orange-flavored liqueur that can be made from cognac, rum, or neutral spirit base.
Twist: A form of citrus peel garnish shaped to form a spiral for added visual appeal.
Up: Also referred to as “Straight up.” Refers to a drink that is shaken or stirred with ice, and then strained into a glass without ice. Occasionally it is confused with the term “neat.”
Vermouth: A fortified wine aromatized with a variety of herbs, botanicals, and spices. Several varieties of vermouth exist, with sweet and dry being most commonly known for their use in classic cocktails such as Manhattans and martinis respectively.
Virgin: A term referring to a cocktail prepared without alcohol.
Vodka: Vodka is a distilled spirit that is clear and unaged. Most often made from grains like rye, barley and wheat, vodka can also be made with anything that has fermentable sugars like potatoes, grapes or sugar beets.
Wedges: A triangular slice of fruit (typically citrus), used to garnish a drink. Citrus wedges often have notches cut into them and are served on the rim of a glass. Their size and shape allow the drinker to squeeze some citrus juice into the drink for added flavor.
Wet: A term typically used to reference a martini made with more vermouth.
Wheel: A circular cut of fruit (often citrus) used to garnish a drink. A wheel is a more decorative choice than a wedge, as it’s more difficult to squeeze juice from a wheel. A wheel may be cut with a small notch in order to fit over the rim of a glass.
Whisky/Whiskey: A broad drink category for spirits distilled from the fermented mash of corn, rye, barley or wheat. The US and Ireland often spell whiskey with an “ey”, whereas in Scotland, Canada and Japan, the extra “e” is often omitted.