Liquor Glossary

LIGHT RUM Rums lighter in body though not necessarily in color than their dark, heavy-bodied Jamaican cousins. Light rums may be white, “silver”, or golden in color. They usually hail from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Virgin Islands.

LIGHT WHISKEY American whiskey, lighter in taste and body than its conventional whiskey predecessors. It is distilled at a much higher proof (161 to 189) than traditional whiskeys and aged in reused barrels rather than in new charred barrels.

LILLET An increasingly popular French apertif, light and dry, that comes in two versions, white and red.

LIQUEUR An alcoholic beverage that is manufactured by adding flavorings such as strawberry, orange, or almond to a distilled spirit. the flavorings can be added in one of three fashions; steeping, percolating/filtering, and redistilling. Combinations of flavors, such as mint, chocolate, vanilla, and coffee are also used. Because of the way they are produced, the differences in quality among liqueurs are dramatic. Some liqueurs, especially those manufactured in Europe, are still made by natural processes and contain natural ingredients. Unfortunately, many of the larger liqueur firms, including most American firms, use chemical flavor concentrates in the manufacture of their liqueurs. Where such chemical concentrates are used, the law stipulates that the liqueur must be designated on the label as “artificial”, or “imitation”. One line of liqueurs still manufactured entirely by natural process is France’s Marie Brizard, Bols of Holland (which makes superb triple-sec, and curaçao), and the original Amaretto di Saronne.

LIQUOR Alcoholic beverage most often distilled, rather than fermented.

LONDON DRY GIN The type of clear dry gin popular in Britain and the United States, highly suited to mixing drinks in general and martinis in particular.

LOW BALL A short drink consisting of spirits served with ice alone, or with water or soda in a short glass. Also known as an on-the-rocks or old-fashioned.

MALIBU A jamaican coconut flavored rum liqueur.

MANDERINE NAPOLEAN A liqueur made from manderine orange flavored cognac.

MARASCHINO A very sweet white cherry liqueur made from the marasca cherry of dalmatia, Yugoslavia. This liqueur is sometimes used in sours in place of sugar.

MARIE BRIZARD French producer of high quality liqueurs.

METAXA A strong, sharp-tasting, aromatic Greek brandy.

MIDORI MELON LIQUEUR A pale green liqueur of Japaneese origin that tastes of fresh muskmelon or cantaloupe.

MIST A glass packed with crushed ice to which spirits are added, usually straight.

MULL A warm drink containing wine, sugar, spices, and possibly a liquor. Also a verb meaning to warm, spice, and sweeten, a technique that is applied to both wine and ale.

MYER’S RUM A famous line of high-quality dark Jamaican rums.

NAPOLEAN BRANDY The term is related to age and usually means a cognac that is at least 5 years old.

NEAT A straight shot of any spirit taken in a single gulp, usually without any accompaniment, also called a shooter.

NOILLY PRAT An excellent and well known brand of French dry vermouth that is perfectly suited to the making of dry martinis.

ORANGE BITTERS Made from the dried peel of the bitter Seville oranges, orange bitters are less aromatic and fruitier then the more popular and sophisticated Angostura bitters.

ORANGE FLOWER WATER A light, non-alcoholic preparation based on the oil of orange blossoms, used as a flavoring in drinks.

ORGEAT A syrup with a pronounced almond flavor.

OUZO an anise flavored liqueur of Greece, usually served on the rocks. Also an Absinthe substitute.

PARFAIT AMOUR Cordial made of citron, cinnamon, coriander, and brandy.

PASSION FRUIT A liqueur made in Hawaii from peaches or mangos.

PEANUT LOLITA A liqueur made from peanuts.

PEAR LIQUEUR A Hungarian made liqueur, some even have a pear in the bottle.

PEPPERMINT SCHNAPPS A mint flavored liqueur similar to creme de menthe, but lighter bodied and less sweet.

PERNOD A famous French anise-flavored liqueur and Absinthe substitute.

PERRIER A highly effervescent bottled water that the French use in highballs instead of club soda. It has a sharp edge that works well as a counterpoint to the stickiness of fruit juices. Highly popular on this side of the Atlantic, Perrier can be taken alone or with lime juice.

PETER HEERING A famous, deep red, cherry-flavored liqueur made in Denmark, formerly known as Cherry Heering.

PEYCHOUD’S BITTERS Made in louisiana from an old closely guarded french family recipe. It is a pungent anise flavored bitter.

PICK-ME-UP Any concoction designed to allay the effects of overindulgence in alcaholic beverages.

PIMM’S CUP A Pimm’s No. 1 is a liqueur-style prepackaged preperation with a gin base. Pimm’s No. 2 has a whiskey base, while No. 3 is a rum base and No. 4 a brandy base.

POUSSE-CAFE A sweet, multilayered after-dinner drink. Success in making it depends upon keeping each layer seperate and distinct from the others-a neat trick. The secret is knowing the relative heaviness of of the various liquids that make up the Pousse-cafe.

PRALINES A New Orleans liqueur that recreates the butter pecan/brown sugar/vanilla flavor of the traditional praline candy

PROOF The measure of the strength of the alcohol. one degree of proof equals one-half of one percent of alcohol. I.E., 80 proof is 40% alcohol.

PRUNELLA A liqueur made from meat, plum pits, figs, and vanilla beans.

RICKEY A drink that is a cross between a collins and a sour. It consists of lime or lemon juice, club soda, and alcohol. Unlike the collins and sour, it contains no added sugar.

ROCK AND RYE A fruit juice that combines rock candy, rye whiskey and fruit slices.

RUM Rum can be made from 2 different raw materials: it can be distilled directly from the fermented juice of crushed sugar cane, or, once the sugar is extracted, it can be made from the remaining molasses. Some rums contain dunder, which is a residue from the previous distillation and makes for a more pungent product. Three main types of rum are made in the West Indies today. Very light(white or silver) rums hail from the Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico. These require little aging and are relatively tasteless and oderless. Golden rum, also known as anejo, though still of the light-bodied type, has more taste and pronounced character. Darker, aromatic, full bodied rums such as Myer’s are produced in Jamaica. These are distilled by a slower and different fermentation process, which allows for a fuller richer, molasses like body to develop. All rum is colerless when first distilled, and those that are aged for only a year are often colored with caremel. Even heavy bodied rums that are aged in charred oak casks for as long as twenty years are subject to artificial coloring. Medium and heavy bodied rums are usually aged between two and twenty years.

RYE The oldest native American whiskey, originally manufactured in the 1600s by Scotch and Irish settlers in New York. Rye is a very full bodied drink with a pronounced character, and perhaps for that reason, it has faded in popularity in the land of its origin to the point where it lags behind all other varities of whiskey in consumption. Many people confuse rye with blended whiskey, but the two are far from being the same. Rye must be made with at least 51% rye grain, the rest being corn and barley. Rye is aged in in new charred oak barrels for at least 2 years.

SABRA An orange flavored liqueur with a hint of chocolate, from Israel.

SAKE This traditional drink of Japan, a bit on the sweet side, is commonly referred to as “rice wine”, when in fact it is actually rice beer. Although it resembles a wine in taste and appearance, it is not made from grapes. It is fermented from rice and malted barley. Sake is usually served warm, as the heat brings out its superior bouquet.

SAMBUCA An Italian liqueur flavored with anise. The Italians often serve it “with flies”, which is actually 3 or 4 coffee beans on top of a glass of sambucca which is then flamed.

SANGAREE Made with whiskey, gin, rum, or brandy, with port wine floated on top, or with wine, ale porter or stout, with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

SCHNAPPS The word “schnapps” (from the German Schnappen, to snap) refers to a mixture of vodka, gin, brandy or other spirit. In Scandanavia the word is snaps and almost always means Akvavit. In the U.S. the term has taken on a new meaning to identify a whole new generation of intensely flavored, sweet, inexpensive liqueurs of moderate strength (22 to 30% alcohol by volume). The Dekuyper brands of Applebarrel and Peachtree schnapps, while not the first in the U.S market,are generally credited with launching the schnapps craze due to a technical breakthrough that yielded a fresh rather than cooked fruit flavor. Other flavors such as cola, cinnamon, rootbeer, tropical(hot shot), butter scotch, strawberry hazelnut, lemonade, apricot, peppermint, blueberry, bubble gum, tequila, and numerous others are making the schnapps a dominant force in the liqueur market. The most unique schnapps has to be Gold schnapps, which is peppermint schnapps with very fine flakes of gold foil added in.

SCOTCH Scotch whiskey is produced only in Scotland. Some Scotch whiskeys sold in the United States are produced in Scotland and then bottled in the U.S. Most are blends of malt whiskeys and grain whiskeys and typically contain the products of fifty or more distilleries, with the better and more expensive brands containing more malt than grain. Some Scotches are blends of different malts and these are known as vatted malts. In recent years, unblended scotches or single malts like Glenfiddich have achieved a considerable popularity.

SHOOTER A straight shot of spirits taken neat.

SLINGS Made like sangarees with the addition of lemon juice and a twist of lemon peel. Served in an old fashioned glass.

SLIVOVITZ A brandy made from plums, fermented and distilled. Very high alcohol content.

SLOE GIN Sloe gin is a liqueur made from the sloe berry, a kind of small, wild plum, which is soaked in gin.

SMASHES Small juleps, served in an old fashioned glass. Made from muddled sugar, ice cubes, whiskey, gin, rum or brandy and soda water.

SOUR MASH The term is usually applied to bourbon whiskey; this whiskey is made from a blended grain mash consisting of new mash and a portion of mash from a preceding mash.

SOURS Made of lemon juice,ice, sugar, with any basic liquor.

SOUTHERN COMFORT The oldest American liqueur, well known the world over, Southern Comfort is a blend of bourbon, peaches, and peach liqueur. It is dry and strong (100 proof) as liqueurs go. Produced in St. Louis.


STOLICHNAYA A high quality vodka produced in the Soviet Union and favored by many serious vodka drinkers on the other side of the iron curtain, where they enjoy vodka without mixers of any type. Some store their Stoli in the freezer, where it thickens up slightly, and serve it in chilled liqueur glasses.

STRAIGHT WHISKEY In the United States, a blended straight whiskey is a blend of several mature rye or bourbon whiskeys, as opposed to a blended whiskey in which bourbon or rye whiskey is mixed with an inferior whiskey or a grain-neutral spirit.

STREGA Cordial made from orange peel, spices and very strong spirits, very sweet. Italian in origin.

SWEDISH PUNCH (Caloric Punch) a Scandanavian liqueur made from batavia, arak, tea, lemon peel and 70 other spices. Also called caloric punch for its warming properties.

SWIZZLE Originally a tall rum cooler filled with cracked ice that was swizzled with a long twig or stirring rod or spoon rotated rapidly between the palms of the hands to produce frost on the glass.

TENNESSEE WHISKEY Tennessee whiskey is made in the same way as a sour-mash bourbon whiskey except that the tennessee whiskey is filtered through charcoal from hard Tennessee maple trees.

TEQUILA Tequila is a product of the mezcal plant. (specifically the blue agave) One misconception is that mezcal and mescaline are related; only the words mezcal and mescal are alike. All tequilas are mezcals, but the very finest of the mezcals. True tequila is produced in a very small region of Mexico, around the town of Tequila in the state of Jalisco. Tequila must be distilled at least twice, and quality gold tequilas are aged in wood three years. Jose Cuervo, a high quality tequila is widely available in the United States and is usually drunk straight. Harsher, white tequilas are often treated with the “three pals” or los tres cuates treatment, in which the participant takes a good lick of salt from the back of his hand, knocks back a slug of tequila, and then quickly sucks on a lemon or lime slice. The tequila’s that have met the Mexican standard of quality are stamped DGN on the label. Mezcals are not regulated like tequila is and often harsher tasting, plus there’s the worm in the bottom.

TIA MARIA A coffee flavored liqueur from Jamaica. Dryer than Kahlua, Tia Maria is Jamaican rum based and flavored with spices.

TODDY Originally a hot drink made with spirits, sugar, spices such as cinnamon, cloves, etc and a lemon peel mixed with hot water and served in a tall glass. Toddy’s can also be cold.

TONIC WATER Another term for quinine water, and a great mixer.

TRIPLE SEC A highly popular sweetener and flavoring agent in many drinks, triple-sec is the best known form of curaçao, a liquer made from the skins of the curaçao orange. Cointreau is a high quality brand of triple sec.

TUACA Italian brandy based liqueur flavored with vanilla, citrus, almond, coconut, orange and cocoa.

VANDERMINT A liquid after dinner chocolate mint is the best way to describe this liqueur from the netherlands.

VERMOUTH Though the product is mostly an Italian/French undertaking, the word comes to us from the German Vermutwein, meaning wormwood wine. While wormwood is indeed one of the many botanicals that goes into its manufacture, vermouth has escaped the stigma that has followed absinthe. Actually, vermouth is a highly sophisticated product of a great many botanical flavorings such as cloves, nutmeg, seeds, marjoram, angelica root, gentian, nutmeg, linden, elder flower, iris root, citrus peels, and over a hundred others. The French (dry)make it by selecting and combining their botanicals, then pouring mixture of fortified wine and mistelles over them. The brew is allowed to steep for a few weeks; the wine is then drawn off and the process repeated until all the flavor has been extracted from the botanicals. A selection of these flavored wines are blended together and then mixed with unflavored wines, Brandy is added to raise the alcohol level, and the vermouth is chilled almost to the freezing point to eliminate any sediment. The Italian (sweet) vermouth is red, richer in flavor and more syrupy.

VODKA By United States law, vodka must be colorless, odorless, and tasteless, a combination that has made it the great universal mixer of our time and the most popular selling spirit today with 18% of the market. Vodka was unknown in the U.S. 40 years ago and yet it has been around since the 14th century in Russia when at one time there were 4000 brands available. That and the fact that it is less likely to induce a hangover or show up on ones breath than other varities of alcoholic drinks have combined to make it the most popular spirit in the United States. A popular myth about vodka is that it is made from potatoes. Though it was made that way in the past and could still be made that way, it is usually made from grain-wheat, corn, or rye. The grain is crushed and mixed with water to produce the mash, which is then infused with yeast. Once fermentation takes place, it is then put through a continous still to obtain the purest possible grain-nuetral spirit. Water is added to reduce its alcoholic content to 40 or 50% (80 or 100 proof). There is no aging.

WHISKEY The Irish invented it and in Gaelic, it means “the water of life”. In the Unites States and Ireland, the word is spelled with an e, the British, Scots, and the Canadians usually drop the e. All basic whiskeys, whatever the type, are made from one type of grain or another Straight whiskeys are bottled from the casks in which they are aged, with water added to reduce their proof. Blended whiskeys are of two types: Blended straight whiskeys are a blend or combination of different straight whiskeys of the same general type. Many Scotches and bourbons fit this description. However, “blended whiskeys” as the term is used in the United States, refers to whiskeys in which a straight whiskey has been blended with grain nuetral spirits. The basic varieties of whiskey are blended, bourbon, Canadian, corn, rye, Scotch and Tennessee. The grains used to make whiskey are corn, rye, wheat and barley.

YUKON JACK A Canadian whiskey based liqueur, flavored with citrus and herbs.