Beginner's Guide to Cocktail Terms

Beginner's Guide to Cocktail Terms

3-Minute Read

Have you ever felt embarrassed at a bar because you didn’t know exactly how or what to order? There is such a range of specific terminology used for mixing and serving cocktails that it can be complicated. We have compiled this beginner’s glossary to help you to feel like an expert in no time.

Bitters – ‘Bitters’ are concentrated infusions of botanicals in an alcoholic base. Dashes of bitters are often added to cocktails to enhance their depth of flavour. In our Mr Fox, the recipe calls for a sugar cube soaked in Angostura bitters.

Built – A drink is ‘built’ when the ingredients are assembled directly into the serving glass, usually on top of plenty of ice. The drink should then be given a quick stir. Our Negroni Sbagliato and Pale Fox Spritz are both examples of built cocktails.

spritz prosecco cocktail

Dirty – ‘Dirty’ defines the presence of olive brine in a drink, most commonly a martini.

Dry – ‘Dry’ can have different meanings depending on what context it is used. For Prosecco or Champagne, ‘dry’ is a term used to indicate a lack of sugar or sweetness. Most wines are dry, as opposed to sweet. Pale Fox is classed as Brut, which is one of the driest classifications for sparkling wine. In a Dry Martini, however, it’s not entirely clear what the dry refers to. It could refer to the fact that it contains Dry vermouth (as opposed to red, white, sweet) but, confusingly, it also refers to the alcohol content of the cocktail. An extra-dry martini, for instance, uses as little vermouth as possible. Some bartenders simply rinse the glass out with vermouth, before discarding and adding the spirit. Winston Churchill went one step further, insisting on the cocktail simply ‘glancing at an unopened bottle of vermouth from across the bar’.

Jigger – A bartending tool, the ‘jigger’ is used for quick but accurate measurements of liquid cocktail ingredients. Typically, they are double-sided and in an hourglass shape. This can also be referred to as a measure.

Long – Any drink served in a Collins or highball glass, usually containing a spirit and a mixer, such as our Pale-Oma.  

paloma cocktail prosecco

Muddling – Muddling is the act of crushing fruit, sugar, and herbs to draw out their flavour and help them mix with alcohol. The ‘muddler’ itself is the bartender’s tool, not unlike a pestle, that crushes these ingredients. Most bartenders will simply use the back of a barspoon however.

Neat – A single unmixed spirit served at room temperature without a mixer. These drinks are normally poured directly from the bottle into a glass. For those with a hardy disposition.

Rim – Simply, this can mean running a piece of fruit around the edge of the glass before placing it in. Often this precedes carefully dipping the glass’ rim in salt or sugar, as is the case when preparing our Pale-Oma.

Rocks – A term for ice cubes. A drink ‘on the rocks’ is a liquor poured over ice, often in a short tumbler.

Shaker – The most essential item of barware is the ‘shaker’ which mixologists use to combine ingredients. There are three main varieties of shaker: the Cobbler, the Boston and the French/Parisian. Whilst the other two look the part, the Boston shaker is the one you’ll see most bartenders equipped with.

Straight-up – A drink that has been shaken (customarily with ice) and strained into a glass with a stem. Our Stone Fruit Fizz and Foxglove are both served ‘straight-up’.

cocktail prosecco

Strainer – If a cocktail contains ice or muddled fruit it will sometimes need to be strained so that only a liquid remains. There are two main types of ‘strainer’, the recognisable Hawthorne strainer and the fine mesh strainer. For extra clear cocktails, like a Martini, you would use both, to ensure no tiny ice crystals enter the drink.

Twist – When a peel of citric fruit is used to add flavour to a cocktail, squeezing it gently and sometimes serving it inside the cocktail as a garnish. The ‘twist’ in our Fox Force 75 is the lemon peel.

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