top of page

Bar & Cocktail Lingo & Terminology

Every profession in the world has their own terminology and the cocktail world is no exception.



86 means two things; you are out of something or someone is banned or thrown out of a bar.



A small glass of a non-alcoholic beverage on the side. A typical way a guest would order would be, "Can I get a Maker's Mark neat with a water back?" 


Bar Spoon

A bar spoon has a long handle and you use it to stir cocktails, layer shots, spoon dry goods, and guide a thick frozen/blended drink out from the blender pitcher into a glass. The bowl end can also be used as a measurement or to spoon out something from a cocktail, jar, or condiment tray. Popular cocktails that require stirring include Gin Martinis, Manhattans, and Sazeracs. 


To stir a cocktail, add your ingredients into a mixing glass and then add ice. Place the handle of the spoon between your middle and ring fingers, then insert the spoon to the inside of the mixing glass (bowl of the spoon touching the inside of the glass). Keep the bowl on the inside of the glass as you stir around. Twenty revolutions is a good stir. 



To mix up ingredients in an electric blender with ice. In America, generally, the South says “frozen” and the North says “blended.”


Fill a glass with large ice and pour in the ingredients. If you have small, thin ice, pour your ingredients in first and then add the ice to avoid a lot of dilution. 



Call means two things; a call brand is a spirit brand that is a step up in price from the least expensive well/house brand and "call" means when a guest calls out a brand such as, "Can I please get an Aviation gin Negroni?"



A non-alcoholic or low-alcoholic drink that is quickly drunk after a strong alcoholic drink. The best example is when someone drinks a shot and wants something like a little Sprite (without ice) to "chase" it down his or her throat. Not to be confused with "back." 



To chill a glass, add ice and then water to the glass and allow it to chill while you are making the drink. Alternatively, keep glasses chilled in the freezer. 



A bottle opener. Back in the day they were called churchkeys. There are many to choose from. They come in all colors and styles, with retractable reels, belt hooks, and so much more.


Citrus Press

A citrus press (also called a citrus squeezer) presses citrus juice. There are electric, manual, and handheld squeezers to choose from.



It used to mean wine over ice with lemon-lime soda (Sprite) added (with plain soda water it's called a spritzer). In the 1980s the bottled wine cooler hit the market and carried on with several flavors. The most popular brand was Bartles & Jaymes. Today brands such as Smirnoff Ice and Mike’s Hard Lemonade are considered bottled coolers.



A few drops or a very small amount of an ingredient.



Generally refers to a Dirty Martini, which means adding olive brine. Sometimes, it can become an issue when bartenders use too much brine because this can result in guests' complaining, which therefore results in adding more alcohol to balance the taste. I have served chilled olive brine on the side so guests can add their own; this way results in zero complaints, wasted product, and wasted time. Or, to understand the level of dirtiest they want, I will ask with a smile, "Do you want it PG, R, or X-rated?"



Very little vermouth added to a Martini. The drier the guest wants their Martini, the less vermouth they want to be added. On the flip-side, a "wet" Martini means more vermouth than normal.



To set on fire.



Gently pour a spirit on top of a drink. 


Free Pour

Not using a measuring device. You pour freely from a bottle with a pour spout and count in your head. Most bartenders “four count” free pour to a count of  

1 – 2 – 3 – 4. Each count equals a quarter shot, so a 4 count would equal one ounce and an 8 count would equal two ounces. 



A grater (also know as a Microplane) is used mostly to grate fresh spices. Just hold the small, stainless-steel grater over the drink and grate. The most popular drinks that require nutmeg grating include Milk Punch and a Brandy Alexander.



A two-sided measurement tool to measure alcohol for cocktails. They come in about five different sizes. But if you can only buy two, get 1 ­& 2 ounce and

1.5 & .5 ounce jiggers.



All alcohols have different weights (densities) and the higher the alcohol content the lighter it will be. When you layer a shot, you start with the heaviest alcohol on the bottom and the lightest on top. Let us say you want to layer Irish cream on top of coffee liqueur. Simply fill half of the shot glass with coffee liqueur, set the edge of the spoon bowl on top of the coffee liqueur level, and gently pour the Irish cream on the bowl (breaking the fall) so that it gently layers on top of the coffee liqueur.


Some bartenders like to use the curved side of the bowl and others like the concave side of the bowl. I've also seen bartenders use the spiral on a bar spoon and a cherry. Basically, you just need something to break the fall so that it slowly layers on top.



Mixers are generally nonalcoholic ingredients that provide balance and flavor when mixed with alcohol to create a cocktail.



Also called virgin or non-alcoholic cocktail.


To mash up ingredients with a muddler. Crush hard for ingredients like pineapple, citrus, ginger, etc. Softly tap herbs just to release the oils. 



Room-temperature-pour straight from the bottle. No ice. 


On the Rocks

Over ice. 



A pony refers to one ounce. There is a glass called a pony that holds one ounce.


The measure of the content of ethanol (alcohol) in a spirit. Divide proof in half and you have the percentage alcohol content of the liquor. For example, a 100 proof spirit is 50% alcohol.



To add something to the rim of the glass. 



To coat the inside of the glass. Example; a Sazerac glass is rinsed with absinthe. To rinse, you can pour a little of the spirit in a glass and twirl around coating the inside, throw up in the air in a spinning motion, or spray the inside of the glass. I believe I was the first to rinse a glass by spraying in 2007. Pricey absinthe had just been released into America and I was watching how much was being wasted, so I bought one of those travel spray bottles and filled it with absinthe. Robert Plotkin included this in an article he wrote for a spirit magazine.



To roll a drink back and forth. 



To shake a cocktail with ice with a cocktail shaker. 


Shaker Tin

A shaker tin is used to shake a drink. You can find novelty shakers in many shapes, but they all break down into two types: cobbler and Boston.


Cobbler shakers consist of three pieces and are mostly used by home enthusiasts. A Boston-type shaker consists of two components pieced together to shake a drink—normally a sixteen-ounce mixing pint glass and a twenty-eight-ounce shaker tin.



Generally refers to wine on ice with soda water added.



After shaking, strain the cocktail with a strainer. 



A strainer keeps ice and other ingredients that have been shaken from falling into the glass. Bartenders today use three types of strainers: Hawthorne, julep, and mesh (or fine strainer).


Hawthorne strainers have a metal coil and can be used on top of a shaker tin or a mixing glass. Julep strainers fit at an angle into a mixing glass. A mesh strainer is used as a “double strainer”—meaning that it’s held over the glass and used as a second strainer while pouring into the glass from a Boston or julep strainer. It makes sure seeds or small bits are caught before going into the drink.



Pour ingredients into a mixing glass; add ice, and then stir. 


Straight Up

A drink that is chilled by shaking or stirring then served cold straight up. 



This generally refers to a lemon twist (piece of the rind) that is twisted over a cocktail to release lemon oils. After twisted, it is usually gently swiped around the glass rim then dropped into the drink. Tools used to create a twist can be a wide peeler, knife, zester, or channel knife.


I prefer using a vertical channel knife over the drink because as you cut a thin layer and it sprays the oil needed on the top of the drink (and rim) plus saves the extra steps of having to lay down your tool, pick up the peel, and squeeze the peel. Plus it looks more sanitary.


It should be noted that sometimes guests mean a lime wedge. They will say something like, "Give me a vodka soda with a twist." They think a twist is a lime wedge because that's what they see in movies and TV.



Also called Mocktail or non-alcoholic cocktail.


Waiter's Tool

It is also called a wine tool or corkscrew and is used to open bottles of wine, stubborn corks on whiskey bottles, and as bottle openers. Many types are available, but real bartenders and wine stewards use a “double lever” waiter’s corkscrew, which comes with a small built-in knife to cut the foil off a wine bottle. You will find the knife can serve many other purposes such as cut wrappings off liquor bottles.



It means two things; a well is an area behind a bar that houses the ice and around this area is most of the things a bartender needs to make a cocktail including the "well" liquors that are kept in a speed well for fast and easy access. Every bar will have a well vodka, gin, rum, tequila, etc. and they are normally the least expensive brands. So when a guest asks for a Gin and Tonic (notice they did not call out a brand name) then the bartender will reach down and grab the "well" gin to make the drink.



Refers to a "wet" Martini, which means more vermouth than normal.


Wide Peeler

This is a peeler much like you have at home to peel vegetables but wider to cut citrus rinds. As an old-school bartender, I really don't understand the long wide citrus current bartenders use. You don't need that much citrus oil in a drink.


I prefer using a vertical channel knife over the drink because as you cut a thin layer and it sprays the oil needed on the top of the drink (and rim) plus saves the extra steps of having to lay down your tool, pick up the peel, and squeeze the peel. Plus it looks more sanitary.

Designs by Cheryl Charming

More to come!

bottom of page