Spirits Glossary



Interested in becoming a Spirits Expert?  Take our Spirits 101 class by mastering the various spirits related terms in our comprehensive glossary below.


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.

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

Scandinavian grain spirit, usually flavoured with caraway and anise.

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

A blend consisting of only straight whiskeys.

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

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

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

A Brazilian sugar cane based spirit similar to rum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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).

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

A neutral alcohol base flavoured with the juniper berry.

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

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

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

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

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

The driest gin available.

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.

To mash or crush ingredients with a spoon or muddler.

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

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

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

Japanese rice wine, may be served warm or chilled.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

Colourless, 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.

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