One of the rewards of diving into the world of cocktails and spirits—besides delicious booze-laden drinks, of course—is dipping into different cultures. It’s hard to drink Campari without jonesing for an Italian cafe, and taking a long draw of cognac is at least a halfway decent substitute for wandering the vineyards of southern France.
Transporting as drinking can be, it can be head-bangingly frustrating to learn all those foreign brand and bottle names. It’s one thing to remember how to pronounce Jägermeister. (Thanks, college!) But what about these 10 tongue-twisting tipples?
SAY IT RIGHT: kyoor-uh-sow
Next time you take a Caribbean vacation, nail this one. Best known for being an ingredient in the classic Mai Tai, this orange-flavored liqueur has its origins in the Dutch island colony that shares its name and is made from a special variety of bitter orange. That “ç” always sounds like an “s.”
SAY IT RIGHT: bek-kur-OHV-kuh
This bitter, herbal digestif is a staple in much of the Czech Republic. Impress the locals—or your friends—by accurately saying it using this tip: The “h” is silent.
SAY IT RIGHT: lah-FROYG
Scotch names can be rather daunting. In a crowded bar, good luck telling your bartender that you would like a Glenkinchie with a splash of water. However, there’s one whisky that seems to trump drinkers most everywhere outside Scotland. Made on the island of Islay (pronounced EYE-la, by the by), it’s a tasty single malt despite all those consecutive vowels. Hear a Scot say it for yourself.
SAY IT RIGHT: KOH-kee uh-meh-ree-KAH-noh
Called the “missing link in the cocktail-world” in the book Boozehound, Cocchi Americano has been steadily taking over American rocks glasses since its American release in 2010. This aperitif is great in many cocktails, especially in a Negroni as a substitute for sweet vermouth. Just make sure to drop the “h” when you order. Saying “coachy americano” to your bartender guarantees blank stares in return.
SAY IT RIGHT: KWAN-troh
It’s no secret: If you want a delicious Margarita or Sidecar, you’ll need a quality triple sec. Cointreau is well-regarded for its balanced orange flavor. Though popular, a lot of people have trouble pronouncing its name. Luckily, it’s not a hard one to straighten out.
SAY IT RIGHT: chee-NAHR
If there’s any liqueur that has been plagued by its name, it’s this artichoke-accented spirit. While it doesn’t help that this Italian aperitif shares many letters with the never-appetizing and, um, deadly cyanide, it may surprise you that Cynar isn’t pronounced the way you might think. Start out with a heavy “ch” sound.
SAY IT RIGHT: fah-LEHR-num
When we mention falernum to most people, even cocktail enthusiasts, they’re more likely to ask what it is than how to pronounce it. However, if you’re a fan of tiki cocktails, you may have tasted this spiced syrup (also available as a low-proof liqueur) without even knowing it. The sweet, gingery mixture may not be the most-used ingredient behind the bar, but knowing how to pronounce this niche sweetener may grant you instant cred if you visit a vintage tiki destination or a modern version like San Francisco’s famed Smuggler’s Cove.
SAY IT RIGHT: lee-LAY
Lillet is still pronounced incorrectly despite being name-dropped in a James Bond movie. This French aperitif wine is something like Cocchi Americano but with a lighter taste. In fact, Cocchi is considered the closest modern-day substitute for the original Lillet formula, Kina Lillet (today’s version is called Lillet Blanc). If you ever find yourself reciting the ingredients to a Vesper or Corpse Reviver No. 2—both of which feature Lillet—remember your high-school French: The “t” is silent.
SAY IT RIGHT: POONT eh MESS
Italian for “point and a half”, Punt e Mes was rumored to have started when a stock broker ordered his vermouth mixed with half a dose of bitter liqueur. The result was a sweet vermouth with a bitter bite that goes well with Campari drinks like the Negroni and Boulevardier. If you want to try this in your next Americano, throw away the football terms. Here, ‘Punt’ is pronounced with a long “u.”
SAY IT RIGHT: grahn mar-NYAY kyoo-VAY doo san sin-khan-ten-air
Want to impress everyone in the room with your superb liquor-related pronunciation skills? Reciting the name of this special edition orange liqueur should do the trick. With a tagline of "Hard to find, impossible to pronounce, and prohibitively expensive," Grand Mariner’s 150-year anniversary edition of its classic liqueur is a luxury piece all around—with a price tag of $225 per bottle. Practice that name before throwing down at your liquor store.
Mixing your cocktail