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Quick & Easy Guide To Drinks Terminology

No matter how good you are at mixing your own drinks at home, your friends will be more impressed if you also know the right terminology.

By: Tiff Christie|July 31,2019

Whether you call them bar terms, bartender terminology or bartender lingo, it all equates to the same thing – the words you need to know when you are mixing drinks.

Learning proper bar terms is not difficult – there aren’t that many terms and most are pretty self-explanatory.

But just to be sure, we thought it was time to list a few words you might come across, as an easy reference guide.

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  1. ABV: Stands for alcohol by volume, or the percentage of alcohol in the solution. ABV equals 1/2 of the spirit’s proof.
  2. Angel’s Share: While a spirit ages in a barrel, a small amount evaporates, known as the angel’s share.
  3. Aperitif: A drink served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. Traditionally dry rather than sweet.
  4. Back: A small glass of something (water, soda, beer, etc.) to accompany a drink.
  5. Bar Spoon: A long-stemmed spoon with a spiral-handle used for preparing stirred drinks.
  6. Blend: A cocktail-making technique where one places ingredients into an electronic blender and blends until smooth.
  7. Built: A preparation technique where cocktail ingredients are combined directly into the glass in which they are served.
  8. Call Drink: A cocktail composed of a liquor and mixer, when the liquor is a defined brand (e.g. a Bacardi and Coke).
  9. Chaser: A small, tasty drink to take directly after shooting something straight.
  10. Dash: A rough measurement used to indicate a very small amount, often used with bitters.
  11. Digestif: It is a drink reserved for after dinner with the purpose of aiding digestion.
  12. Dirty: Means “with olive brine,” typically in reference to a martini.
  13. 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.
  14. Dry: Very little vermouth in a martini. May refer to less mixer in a mixed drink.
  15. Express: To twist the peel of a citrus fruit, to extract a little of the oil
  16. Finger: A very informal measurement. It’s typically about an ounce. Put your finger horizontally on the side of the glass and pour your booze until it reaches the top of your finger. That’s one finger. “Barkeep, gimme two fingers of Whiskey!”
  17. Fizz: A mixed drink category that features an acidic element, such as lemon juice, a sweetener, a base spirit, and carbonated water.
  18. Flairing: Essentially, it’s what bartender do when they want to show off. It consists of deft, impressive, but totally unnecessary acrobatic tricks performed with bottles, glasses and shakers by overconfident bartenders (as was done in the movie Cocktails)
  19. 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 it floats.
  20. 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 shaker.
  21. Highball: Any spirit served with ice and a mixer in a tall glass (typically a highball glass).
  22. Infuse:  A method of imparting flavour into a liquid by soaking herbs, spices or fruits in it for a length of time.
  23. Jigger: As a unit of measurement, a jigger is typically 1.5 fluid ounces. A jigger also a tool for measuring precise amounts of liquid.
  24. 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.
  25. Lace: Refers specifically to the last ingredient in a recipe, meaning to pour onto the top of the drink.
  26. Long: Means served in a tall glass. Generally mixed with juice or water. “I’ll take a dark and stormy, long.”
  27. Lowball: Similar to highballs in that most only have one or two spirits or mixers and are served on the rocks. However, they are smaller in volume and served in shorter glasses – hence ‘low.’
  28. Mixer: A non-alcoholic ingredient in a cocktail or mixed drink, typically a soda or juice.
  29. Muddle: To mash fruits, herbs, and /or spices at the bottom of a shaker tin or glass to release the flavour.
  30. Neat: A single spirit or liqueur served without ice, water or a mixer.
  31. One and One: n. A liquor and mixer, of which neither are defined brands. (ie. Gin and Tonic, Rum and Coke).
  32. Proof: n. A measurement of strength in spirits. It’s double the ABV.
  33. Rim: A mixology term for coating the rim of a cocktail glass in sugar or salt.
  34. Rinse: A small amount of liquid that is used to coat the inside of the glass and give a hint of flavour. “She made an amazing Sazerac with an absinthe rinse.”
  35. Rocks: Ice. On the rocks would be over ice.
  36. 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.
  37. Short: Served in a short, rocks glass.
  38. Sling: A cocktail without bitters, so it’s just sugar, water, spirits. Sweeter, generally.
  39. Sour: A short drink consisting of liquor, lemon/lime juice and sugar.
  40. 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.
  41. Squeeze: A piece of citrus (lime, lemon, orange) that is squeezed over then dropped in.
  42. Stirred: A term used when the ingredients need to be gently mixed, often with a bar spoon. Stirring works best with clear spirits.
  43. 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.”
  44. 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.
  45. Throw: A method of mixing where you pour the ingredients of a drink from one shaker tin to another to aerate it.
  46. Top: To add the remaining liquid, usually a juice or soda, to finish a cocktail.
  47. Twist: Ordering something “with a twist” means a twist of citrus peel—by default, lemon—will be applied to the drink.
  48. 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.
  49. Virgin: A term referring to a cocktail prepared without alcohol.
  50. 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.

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Quick & Easy Guide To Drinks Terminology

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