Spirits Glossary

Absinthe

A once illegal anise based aperitif drink with an infusion of wormwood, considered by some to be hallucinogenic and dangerous. Brands now available are made without all of the dangerous ingredients.

Aperitif

Originally referring to wine, but now may mean any liquor taken to stimulate the appetite before a meal.

Aquavit

Scandinavian grain spirit, usually flavoured with caraway and anise.

Bitters

A non-alcoholic aromatic combination of herbs, fruits, roots, barks, seeds, and flowers steeped in an alcohol base and then aged.

Blended Straight Whiskey

A blend consisting of only straight whiskeys.

Blended Whiskey

A blending of straight whiskeys with either light-bodied whiskeys or with neutral alcohols.

Bourbon Whiskey

American whiskey made by using at least 51% corn grain mash in a wheat, oats, rye, and barley combination.

Brandy

A product of the distillation of wine, or fruit in the case of flavored brandies such as peach or cherry. Cognac and Armagnac are special varieties made from grapes grown in specific areas of France.

Cachaca

A Brazilian sugar cane based spirit similar to rum.

Canadian Whiskey

A light-bodied whiskey balanced so that no one particular mash ingredient is allowed to dominate the flavor.

Cognac

A type of brandy that has been distilled from wine made from grapes grown in the area surrounding the cities of Cognac and Jarnac.

Cordial

A strong, highly flavored and sweet liquor typically consumed after a meal.

Corn Whiskey

A whiskey made from a mash of at least 80% corn. May or may not be aged.

Digestif

A liquor consumed at or after a meal to aid in digestion.

Drambuie

A Scotch based, honey flavoured liqueur first produced in Skye, Scotland in 1745, now produced in Edinburgh.

Dry Vermouth

French made, herb flavored wine that is used in making drinks such as the Martini and Manhattan.

Everclear

In the United States, Everclear is a brand of grain alcohol (ethanol), available at concentrations of 95% alcohol (190 proof) and 75.5% (151 proof).

Fernet Branca

A bitter, aromatic spirit made from over 40 herbs and spices.

Gin

A neutral alcohol base flavored with the juniper berry.

Grain Neutral Spirits

Alcohol distilled from grain at 190 proof. Used in blended whiskeys and for making vodka, gin and other liquors.

Grappa

An Italian brandy distilled from the pulp of grapes used in winemaking.

Irish Whiskey

A whiskey whose flavour is obtained from the malted barley component of its mash, made in Ireland.

Jigger

Also called a shot, a small glass used to measure liquor.

Liqueur

Distilled spirit flavoured with such things as fruit, herbs, coffee, nuts, mint and chocolate.

London Gin

The driest gin available.

Mezcal

Spirit similar to tequila made from one of five permissible Agave plants. Most is made in the state of Oaxaca, but it can be produced elsewhere. The worm found in the bottom of the bottle in some brands originated in the 1940’s as a marketing ploy.

Muddle

To mash or crush ingredients with a spoon or muddler.

Neat

A term referring to liquor that is consumed undiluted by ice, water or mixers.

Proof

An American system for measuring alcohol content by volume. 80 proof equals 40% alcohol by volume (ABV).

Rum

Spirit made from the fermentation and distillation of sugar cane. Light, medium, and heavy bodied flavor variations exist as do variations in color when not clear. Often flavored with spices or fruit flavors. Rye whiskey: Mainly American and Canadian whiskey which must be made from a mash containing at least 51 percent rye.

Sake

Japanese rice wine, may be served warm or chilled.

Scotch Whisky

Blends are a mixture of about 40 percent malt and 60 percent grain whiskey and single malts are 100% from a single distillery.

Sour Mash Whiskey

A broad category of whiskey where a portion of old mash is mixed in with new to help advance the character and smoothness of the flavour.

Straight Whiskey

A whiskey that is distilled and then aged at least two years without blending.

Sugar Syrup

A sweetener for cocktails, made by dissolving sugar in boiling water.

Tequila

Mexican spirit distilled from the blue agave plant, a succulent. Tequila can only be made in the state of Jalisco. Generally available in three categories: Blanco (no wood aging), Reposado and Anejo.

Vermouth

Wine-based aperitif flavoured with extracts of wormwood - both sweet and dry vermouths are widely used in cocktails.

Vodka

Colorless, grain-based spirit, originally from Russia and Poland. Now made from virtually any grain, many fruits and potatoes as well and available in dozens of flavours.

Whiskey

Spirit distilled from grain in either Ireland or North America. Corn, rye and barley are all used.