The Basics Tips & Tricks

15 Words You Need to Know to Instantly Increase Your Booze Knowledge

Maybe you’re new to the world of spirits or maybe you’ve been dabbling for a while. Either way, knowing the right terminology can separate the rookies from the masters, especially if you plan to actually get behind a bar. We’ve compiled a list of advanced drinking terms that will really up your booze cred.

  1. Angel’s Share: This whiskey-lover’s term is part humor, part science. The angel’s share is the amount of liquid that evaporates while a whiskey ages in a barrel. It’s usually around two percent per barrel, but can be up to ten percent based on the amount of time aged, the weather and various other factors. The good news? The wood actually absorbs a lot of the unpleasant aspects of distillate (such as sulfur), so it’s better the angel’s have it than us.
  2. Aperitif: We owe the French for the practice of having a pre-meal cocktail. An aperitif is meant to stimulate the appetite and is traditionally a bitter drink like the Aperol Spritz.
  3. Bitters: They may only make up a dash or two of your cocktail, but bitters are essential when making everything from classics to modern mixology concoctions. Mixtures vary, and consist of a neutral spirit infused with herbs, spices and botanicals.
  4. Bruised: Yes, you can overshake your cocktails! When this happens, and your drink gets cloudy, you’ve bruised your cocktail.
  5. Cask Strength: When you age a spirit in a cask, it’s typically much stronger—about 60 – 65 percent ABV. Normally, water is added before bottling to bring down the ABV, but many distilleries are doing small runs of “cask-strength” whiskies these days. This is also referred to as “barrel-proof” on occasion.
  6. Congeners: Congeners are what’s produced during fermentation of a spirit, aside from the spirit itself. These byproducts give the spirit their flavor, but they’re also probably why you have a major hangover after that whiskey tasting.
  7. Chill Filtration: This controversial term describes the process whiskey goes through to reduce cloudiness and residue. The whiskey is first cooled to around zero degrees and then put through a fine filter. It’s done mostly for cosmetic reasons, which is why it’s heavily debated in the whiskey community. Choose your side wisely.
  8. Cooperage: This is the glorious place where barrels are made. The person who makes them is called a cooper.
  9. Dram: A word still used in Scotland to describe a small pour of whisky. If you want to get technical, a U.S. fluid dram is defined as an eighth of a fluid ounce. The word is usually used in Scotland.
  10. Digestif: You now know what an aperitif is, so think of a digestif as the opposite. This is what you drink after a meal to aid digestion. Classic digestifs include brandy, fortified wine and bitter amaro.
  11. Dry: When used to describe a martini, this term means it has little to no vermouth.
  12. Lightning: A term to describe moonshine, meaning a whiskey that’s unrefined and comes straight out of the still. Lightning, also known as white dog, is a clear spirit due to the absence of barrel aging.
  13. Mash: Another distilling term, a mash is produced after combining grain with water as it’s heated. This process breaks down the starch and results in sugar production. The resulting liquid is known as wort.
  14. Shrub: These vinegar-based sippers are making a big comeback in the cocktail world, so keep an eye out. They’re generally fermented with alcohol added and are used in cocktail preparation or drunk straight.
  15. Rinse: A rinse is a small amount of liquid used to coat the inside of the glass for added flavor.