Mixology 101 (Part 1)

I hope everyone had a great New Years and are ready to mix it up in 2014. This post is the first in a series of posts describing the basics of Mixology and providing you with a foundation and a basic knowledge needed to be an educated and informed drinker. Many moons ago when I took the leap of faith to go to bartending school and become a part-time bartender, which lead to full-time, then management, then teaching, then consulting, and now, writing and blogging. Little did I know that it would carry me to this point of my life. To say the least, it was a rocky time in my life. With a young son attached to my hip, I was contemplating a career change that would tap into my strengths and skill set, make me some money, and accommodate Michelle's schedule and my schedule as a stay-at-home dad. My knowledge of the industry was very raw, but I had all the intangibles to be successful.

I hope to impart some of this knowledge onto those who are interested in learning about this fun, exciting, interesting, and mystical field, whether you are a novice bartender at home who likes to imbibe on occasion or do private parties or a seasoned bartender who would like to expand his/her knowledge of the industry. If you ever watched "Bar Rescue" on Spike TV on Sunday nights, you would see what little knowledge and skill bartenders possess out there. I'm sure you can relate to this fact when you visit your local pub or bar.

I will start by discussing some definitions and classifications. There are 5 classifications of alcohol that can best be described with this acronym: ABC Wine & Spirits. 'A' stands for Aperitif (French word meaning 'to open', also known as an appetizer wine or before-dinner drink, i.e. Dubonnet, Lillet, Pernod, Fernet). Most are made from Brandy. 'B' stands for Beer. 'C' stands for Cordials, i.e. Kahlua, Bailey's, Amaretto, Triple Sec. Cordials are the same as Liqueurs, but each term is used in different parts of the world. Cordials are sweet and syrups products that are made from a base spirit, like Vodka. There are hundreds of cordials made all over the world, ranging from citrus to raspberry to peach. Wine is self-explanatory, which includes Champagne. Champagne can also be considered an Aperitif if drank before dinner. To be called Champagne, it must be made from the Champagne Region of France. All other 'Champagne' from around the world is called Sparkling Wine, which is still made by the Champagne method. Spirits are also known as liquors, i.e. Gin.

Next, there are 6 spirits that can be best described with this acronym: Very Good Rules To Work By. 'V' for Vodka, 'G' for Gin, 'R' for Rum, 'T' for Tequila, 'W' for Whiskey, and 'B' for Brandy. There are two off-shoots from Whiskey - Scotch (must be from Scotland and made from 51% barley) and Bourbon (must be from USA and made from 51% corn) one from Brandy - Cognac. There are many types of Whiskey, i.e. Irish, Canadian, Blended, Tennessee (Jack Daniel's) that are named based on where they come from. All Cognacs are Brandies, but not all Brandies are Cognacs. A common type of Brandy is fruit-flavored Brandy, i.e. Apricot Brandy, Blackberry Brandy. Even though they are sweet in nature, they are still made from Brandy, therefore, not a cordial, but a spirit. All Cognacs must be made from the Cognac Region of France to be considered Cognac.

Stay tuned for Part 2, which will highlight my proven and effective free-pour system (count system) and the use of jiggers in measuring out ingredients for cocktails. Remember that I am available to conduct a Mixology Class in your home and will bring my own tools and equipment. Wanna get your friends together and learn the tricks of the trade and become a 'Master Mixologist'?