Professional bartenders spend years learning their trade and how to craft the best-tasting cocktail that has everyone in raptures when they take that first sip but the rest of us can sometimes struggle with the terminology.
You might know which is the best gin that you like with your tonic water and it isn’t too taxing to learn a few phrases to throw at the bartender, such as asking for your drink “on the rocks”, but there are some terms that can easily bamboozle many of us on the other side of the bar.
Know your liquor and liqueur from your spirits
A typical example of how it is easy to get confused is when you are talking about liquor and spirits.
You could be forgiven for thinking that they are one of the same but suggest that to the barman and you are likely to be greeted with some animated eye-rolling and an exasperated expression.
There is some disagreement on this subject as to whether it is being too pedantic to differentiate between the two, but cocktail aficionados will suggest there is a definite difference between the two.
You can refer to most unsweetened alcoholic drinks such as vodka, gin, and tequila, for example, as either a spirit or liquor. However, if it is a sweetened tipple such as triple sec, or Chartreuse, to name a couple, and these drinks should be classed as a liqueur.
A subtle difference perhaps, but not to the many bartenders who take their job seriously.
An aperitif and a digestif do different things
If you are wining and dining in a nice restaurant it is likely that you will be offered an aperitif and a digestif at various points in the evening.
It is hoped that the sequence of this offer is to be invited to enjoy an aperitif at the beginning of the dining experience, followed by a digestif at the end.
If you are confused by what these drinks are, an aperitif is designed to stimulate your appetite and heighten your enjoyment of the food, while the digestif is aimed at improving digestion at the end of the meal.
An aperitif is often dry and not overloaded with alcohol. Vermouth and dry sherry are classic examples of an aperitif.
If you want to round off the evening with a digestif, maybe you might want to enjoy a brandy or a nice whiskey, for instance.
What’s in your dry martini?
Finally, if there is one misconception that crops up more often than others its the topic of vermouth and martinis.
If you think that a dry martini is simply a martini that is made with vermouth, think again.
What you are actually getting when you order a dry martini is a martini that is mixed with dry gin and dry vermouth.
If you understand this subtle difference it will put a smile on the bartender’s face when you order a Manhattan cocktail and don’t have to ask what’s in it.
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*This is a guest post