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Cocktail, Bartending and Distilling Terminology

In order to get along in the world of cocktails, one needs to know some of the lingo. Learning the most common bartending and distilling terminology is helpful to home bar enthusiasts, professional bartenders and lounge patrons alike.
  1. Distilling Terminology (8)

Alcohol
A colorless, flammable liquid obtained by fermentation of sugars and starches.

Anti-Saloon League
Formed in 1893 in Oberlin, Ohio, it began as a state organization that was in favor of prohibition and soon became a strong influence in the United States.

Aperitif
A refreshing drink typically served before a meal to stimulate the appetite.

Back
A non-alcoholic drink such as water or a soft drink served in a separate glass alongside an alcoholic drink.

Blue Law
Laws that restrict the sales of certain goods, particularly alcohol, on Sunday.

Build
To pour ingredients directly into the serving glass.

Call Drink
To request a brand name liquor when ordering a drink.

Cocktail
A cocktail is a mixed drink that includes liquor, sugar, water, and often bitters. The definition has broadened over the years to include almost any mixed alcoholic beverage. Read more and learn about the history of the cocktail.

Cordial or Liqueur
Sweet distilled spirits with a base liquor, sugar and a variety of fruits, herbs and spices for flavor that varies greatly by type or brand.

Dash
The smallest bar measurement.

Digestif
A drink served after dinner to complete a meal.

Dry
Refers to the quantity of vermouth in a cocktail.

Float
To carefully pour a small amount of liquid over the back of a spoon to balance as the top layer of a drink.

Libation
A beverage containing alcohol or the act of pouring a liquid in sacrifice.

Liquor or Distilled Spirit
A beverage distilled from alcohol.

Mixed Drink
A drink that combines one or more alcoholic beverages.

Mixer
Any non-alcoholic beverage used as an ingredient in a cocktail.

Mixology or Mixologist
The art or skill of preparing mixed drinks.

Molecular Mixology
The practice of understanding and experimenting with cocktails on the scientific and molecular level to create new, interesting flavors, textures and visuals.

What Is a Muddler?
A muddler is a large stick designed used for a common bartending technique known as muddling, or the mashing of ingredients in the bottom of a glass.

Neat
When you order a drink neat you get a straight pour of liquor.

On the Rocks
Refers to a drink served over ice.

Parts
What happens when you come across one of the many cocktails that uses the term "parts" instead of direct measurements like ounces?

Prohibition Party
Formed in 1869 for American political candidates who were in favor of the prohibition of alcohol in the country.

Roll
Ingredients are poured from one glass into another and back again to mix.

Schnapps
Schnapps is a type of distilled spirit that is typically higher proof and less sweet than liqueurs and available in a variety of flavors.

What Does Up and Straight Up Mean?
What does it mean when you order an up or straight up drink in a bar?

Easy Sweet and Sour Mix Recipe
Sour mix (or bar mix) is a drink mixer made of lemon and lime juices and sugar commonly used in mixing cocktails. While it can be bought in the store, it is easier, cheaper, and better tasting if you make your own using this recipe.

What is a Shrub?
Read about the shrub, a popular and classic cocktail ingredient that is also called a drinking vinegar.

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