30 Phrases Every Drinker Should Know...

This post, in conjunction with Chilled Magazine, reveals all those secret words. jargon, or codes, if you will, that bartenders, sommeliers, beer sommeliers, and distillers use in speaking alcohol. Whether you're a connoisseur or boozehound or not, these are the words you should know to sound intelligent and savvy when you're mixing or ordering drinks.

1. ABV

ABV stands for alcohol by volume, a measurement of a beverage’s alcohol content as a percentage of ethanol to fluid volume. A liquor’s proof is defined as being twice the ABV percentage -- so a whiskey that’s 80 proof will have 40% ABV.

2. Aperitif

Alcoholic drink intended to stimulate the appetite, usually dry rather than sweet. Classic apéritifs include dry white wine or Champagne, cocktails that include vermouth or bitter spirits like Campari and wine-based liqueurs like Dubonnet or Lillet.

3. Back

A small non-alcoholic beverage, usually taken alongside a neat spirit or a shot. When the back is taken after the drink instead of with it, it’s known as a chaser.

A “bar back,” however, is an industry position, the person who is responsible for restocking the bar during service but generally doesn’t serve customers -- also sometimes known as a bar runner.

4. Bitters

An aromatic botanical or herbal infusion used to add flavor to cocktails and mixed drinks. These are sometimes alcoholic, sometimes not.

5. Box

A mixing practice where a drink is quickly poured into the cocktail shaker then into the glass, so that ingredients are thoroughly blended without shaking.

6. Bruised

A cocktail or martini is “bruised” when it’s been over-shaken, adding slivers of ice and oxygen bubbles to the drink that gives it a murky or cloudy appearance. Among pros, bruising cocktails is considered the mark of an amateur.

7. Call Drink

A mixed drink or highball where the liquor is named by brand, such as a Jack Daniel’s and Coke (aka Jack and Black) or Blue Sapphire and tonic. When ordering, name the booze first, followed by the mix.

8. Cicerone

A cicerone is a beer sommelier, an expert consumer of international, specialty and craft beers. The name “cicerone” is a private trademark for a training program -- adapted from the Italian word for a museum tour guide -- but the term is also used to describe beer-tasting professionals outside the program.

9. Cocktail

Most people call any mixed drink a cocktail, particularly if it includes juice, but technically to be defined as a cocktail a beverage must include four elements: bitters, spirits, sugar, and water. So, an Old-Fashioned or a Manhattan are cocktails, while a Mimosa is not.

10. Digestif

An alcoholic beverage served after a meal to stimulate digestion. Classic digestifs include brandies, whiskies, fortified wines and liqueurs.

11. Dirty

Includes a splash of olive brine that “dirties” clear spirits. The term is mostly used with reference to martinis, but any clear booze (vodka, gin, white rum or tequila) can be ordered dirty.

12. Dry

Mostly used to refer a martini with little to no vermouth, a dry drink can also be a cocktail or mixed drink with very little mix (the non-alcoholic component).

13. Finger

An informal measurement, indicating a spirits pour about the thickness of a finger in the glass, which works out to about 1 ounce.

14. Float

Layering an ingredient at the top of the drink. Classic drinks with floating liquor include the “striped” B-52 shooter or the Harvey Wallbanger cocktail -- the latter takes a small float of Galliano to distinguish it from a Screwdriver. This is also sometimes known as “lacing.”

15. Free Pour

Adding alcohol to a drink without measuring.

16. Jigger

Jigger refers to both a 1.5-ounce unit of fluid and the container used to measure it, typically an hourglass-shaped stainless steel cup open at both ends.

17. Long

A mixed drink or cocktail served in a tall tumbler — also known as either a highball or collins, depending on its shape — usually about 8-12 ounces. Ordering a drink long means that there will be more mix, diluting the liquor.

18. Mix/Mixer

The non-alcoholic component of a drink, such as soda or juice.

19. Muddle

Mashing fruit, herbs or other ingredients in the bottom of a cocktail glass to release their flavors. Mojitos, Caipirinhas or Caipiroskas and juleps all include muddled ingredients. The pestle-like device for this is known as a muddler.

20. Neat

A spirit consumed straight, without ice, water or other mix. For the most part, ordering neat means you’ll get more than 1 oz. of booze, although just how much depends on where you’re drinking.

21. Pony

A 1-ounce shot.

22. Proof

A measurement of how much alcohol (or ethanol) there is in a drink or spirit. Proof is double the ABV -- proof is often the preferred measurement in the U.S., while ABV prevails internationally.

23. Rinse

A rinse is a small quantity of liquor used to coat the glass, leaving a trace flavor. For example, a Sazerac cocktail usually takes a rinse of absinthe or pastis, and many bartenders use just a rinse of vermouth in vodka martinis.

24. Roll

A mixing practice where spirits are poured into one glass, then another, then back into the first to ensure they’re well blended.

25. Simple syrup

A sweet mixture made with equal parts white sugar and boiling water, used to sweeten drinks or infused to add flavors.

26. Supercall

In bars, supercall liquors are high-end, premium spirits, also known as top-shelf. These are distinguished from the rail, house or well liquor brands that bars use by default. So, if you order a gin and tonic, you’ll get the house brand, but a Hendrick's and tonic is a supercall order.

27. Short

Served in a short (also known as a rock or sometimes old fashioned) glass. For mixed drinks and cocktails, ordering it “short” means that there will be less mix and a stronger drink.

28. Topless

Topless means you want to order a drink that’s usually rimmed -- that crust of salt, sugar or celery salt around the lip of the glass on drinks like margaritas, Bloody Marys, or specialty martini-- without.

29. Virgin

Describes a non-alcoholic cocktail, often a spin on an existing cocktail recipe, minus the spirits.

30. Wet

Describes extra vermouth in a martini -- and sometimes extra mixer in a cocktail or mixed drink.


Using these phrases will make you look like an informed and educated drinker, therefore, will lead to better service (bartenders love talking bar talk) and long-lasting conversations with the bartender, even if you're not interested in picking him/her up. Hopefully you won't get that bartender that looks at you dumbfounded, like you're an alien from outer space. Because there are so many bartenders uninformed, sometimes you just have to educate them. I consider that to be part of my call...Cheers!