Fake It ‘Til You Make It: Liquor

Liquor, spirits, booze, hooch, potent potables… whatever you want to call them, they’re getting lots of attention as high end mixology becomes more prevalent in bars and restaurants. You’ve probably even got a friend or two that fancies themselves an amateur mixologist. They bring the best booze to BYOB parties, and they’re always muddling and mixing something new and exciting. But when you sidle up to a bar next to them and order a Cosmo, they kind of smirk at you.

With holiday parties in full swing, you are bound to encounter a drink or cocktail ingredient that might seem questionable. Or find yourself at a top shelf open bar, and I want you to be able know what to ask for in order to have the best drinking experience (low quality hooch makes for the worst hangovers). Here are 8 booze talking points to help you order a drink and talk like you’re in an episode of Mad Men.

1. I’ll take a bourbon neat.

You just ordered your bourbon at room temperature in a glass with no ice…. I’m impressed. “On the rocks” is obviously with ice. And adding a sugary element and a bitter to your spirit makes it a proper cocktail. Ordering a drink “straight up” means that the spirit is shaken or stirred with ice to chill and then poured into a glass using a strainer without ice. Many cocktails are served straight up as a rule.

2. I’m always surprised when I order a Martini and end up with a Vodkatini.

The classic Martini is made with gin and dry vermouth, not vodka. After that you can dress it up with fruits or even vegetables (adding onion, for example, turns a Martini into a Gibson).  Ordering your Martini “dirty” does not mean it will be served by a sexy naked man unfortunately, it simply means that there is added olive juice to the drink, since the olive is the traditional garnish to a Martini.

3. A single malt whiskey has more character.

Whiskey is probably the spirit that people get the most riled up about. In some ways, it’s like wine. Aged in barrels, its flavor and character are effected by the temperature and the wood etc..Also there are many different types of whiskeys (bourbon, scotch, rye, Tennessee, Irish).  Single malt simply means that it has all come from the same barrel. Blended whiskeys, like Johnnie Walker, are found to be little more uniform in taste.

4. That bartender wouldn’t know the difference between an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan.

That would be a terrible bartender. An Old Fashioned is a bourbon whiskey with a little sugar and some bitters, usually served in a rock glass (short). A Manhattan is bourbon, vermouth and bitters (with two cherries) and is usually served in a martini glass. Both are classics. Here is a list of about 25 cocktails that you at least should know about, you don’t necessarily have to drink or even like them, but you should know what’s in a French 75.

5. I’d sip silver tequila, but make my margarita with Mezcal or gold please.

Tequila, not just for shooting anymore..who knew? Lately, I’ve been meeting lots of tequila aficionados who are a little uppity when it comes to the Mexican spirit. Here’s the lowdown: there are about 5 different types of tequila. Gold, Silver, Resposado, Anejo and Mezcal. Tequila is made of blue agave, except Mezcal, which is made of 8 different kinds of agave plants. Silver is the cleanest of the five, aged for no more than 60 days in stainless steel. Anejo is more robust and aged the longest (about a year). Gold is silver tequila that hasn’t been aged at all and has sugar and water and a bit of caramel in it for color. That’s what makes it ideal for a margarita whether you like it frozen or on the rocks.

 6. Oh, that cocktail has St. Germain? I’m in/out.

While divisive for it’s incredible sweetness, you can’t pick up a cocktail menu without seeing at least 2 drinks made with the elderflower liqueur St. Germain. This sweet drink is generally added to dry champagnes or sparkling white wines for a sweet, fruity taste. It’s great in the summer especially.

7. Rum is the new whiskey.

Like how whiskey has so many flavors and flavor profiles, so does rum. And while whiskey producing is usually relegated to a few countries, rum is made in over 50 countries around the world. Look for rum and rum cocktails to make a huge resurgence in 2014. Get ready for daiquiris, mojitos and mai tai’s all year round! And by the way, a real daiquiri is not served frozen, it’s served on the rocks, the way God/Ernest Hemingway intended.

8. A guy I went to my school/worked/grew up with opened up his own gin distillery.

Move over Bombay and Taqueray….people are making craft gin now. Lots of small batch distilleries are turning to the juniper berry spirit. What makes this appealing to small distilleries is that they have control over the flavor profile for the first time. Gin, unlike with vodka which by design should have no flavor, has the potential for all sorts of floral and herbal notes. Check out some of your hipper cocktail bars and liquor stores for craft gins..


If you want to start geeking out on this new booze trend, check out these blogs!

Booze Nerds – takes a fun and analytical approach to cocktails

Five O’Clock Cocktails – serves up a new cocktail recipe at 5p.m. everyday

The Boys’ Club – named Saveur’s best Cocktail Blog of 2013

There Will Be Bourbon – whiskey-riffic