As the bustling heart of countless communities worldwide, the local bar represents a unique blend of society’s melting pot. It’s where customers decompress, friendships solidify and countless business deals find their genesis.
If you’re an entrepreneur interested in learning how to open a bar, you must fluently speak the language of this vibrant market. And by language, we’re referring not just to the jargon among patrons but to the specialized bar terminology that dominates the back of the house, underpinning every successful operation.
Our comprehensive list explores a variety of categories, from drink types and bar equipment to ordering methods and job titles, providing a deep understanding of the terms integral to your business’s day-to-day running. It demystifies industry jargon and paints a clear picture of the operational requirements of your enterprise.
And because we appreciate the rigors of your entrepreneurial journey, we have prepared a downloadable PDF guide. You can always have this crucial information on hand, whether you’re at your desk or orchestrating the symphony that is a busy Friday night behind the bar.
Why Understanding Bar Terminology is Crucial for Your Business
By decoding the extensive world of bar terminology provides, you gain access to an indispensable toolkit for your business’s success. It’s not merely about memorizing a glossary of terms; it’s about immersing yourself in the industry’s language, culture, and practices.
A superior understanding of bar terminology is a critical factor that distinguishes thriving bars from their struggling counterparts.
Small Business Deals
A few concrete advantages of comprehending bar terminology when learning how to manage a bar include:
- Smoother Operations: Knowing the right terms helps maintain a consistent workflow in your establishment. Whether it’s ordering supplies or instructing your staff, your grasp of industry lingo will keep operations streamlined and efficient.
- Effective Communication: Being fluent in bar language allows you to engage more meaningfully with your customers and staff. The right words can clarify misunderstandings, answer queries, and facilitate better interactions.
- Improved Customer Service: Familiarity with bar terminology can dramatically enhance customer service. By understanding customer orders thoroughly, your staff can provide quick, accurate service, bolstering customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Greater Credibility: Your expertise in bar terminology showcases your knowledge and commitment to your business. It gives you credibility in the eyes of customers, staff, and even potential investors.
- Profitability: In the end, understanding bar terminology can directly contribute to your bottom line. Effective communication, smoother operations, and enhanced customer service all add up to a better customer experience, translating into increased sales and profitability.
Common Alcoholic Drink Names and Mixed Drink Types
As a bar owner, knowing your alcoholic drink names isn’t just beneficial—it’s imperative. Such crucial knowledge enables you to understand your customers’ preferences, serve them accurately and make informed decisions when curating your menu.
While the list of drinks a bar patron might order is practically endless, knowing the following 20 common alcoholic drink names offers a solid foundation for bar owners.
|Drink Name||Ingredients||How It's Served|
|Bloody Mary||• Vodka|
• Tomato juice
• Worcestershire sauce
• Hot sauces
• Lemon juice
|Often served at brunch|
• Triple sec
• Cranberry juice
• Lime juice
|In a martini glass, garnished with a lime wheel|
|Daiquiri||• White rum|
• Lime juice
• Simple syrup
|Served chilled, often in a cocktail glass|
|Dirty Martini||• Gin or vodka|
• Dry vermouth
• Olive brine
|Served chilled in a martini glass, garnished with an olive|
|Espresso Martini||• Vodka|
• Coffee liqueur
• Fresh espresso
|Served in a cocktail glass, often garnished with coffee beans|
• Lime juice
|Served chilled in a cocktail glass|
|Irish Coffee||• Hot coffee|
• Irish whiskey
|Served hot in a coffee mug or Irish coffee glass|
|Long Island Iced Tea||• Vodka|
• Triple sec
• Lemon juice
|Served in a tall glass, often garnished with a lemon slice|
• Sweet vermouth
• Angostura bitters
|Served chilled in a cocktail glass, often garnished with a cherry|
• Lime juice
• Cointreau or triple sec
|Served in a Margarita glass, with salt on the rim|
|Mojito||• White rum|
• Lime juice
• Soda water
|Served in a highball glass, often garnished with a mint sprig|
|Moscow Mule||• Vodka|
• Spicy ginger beer
• Lime juice
|Served in a copper mug, garnished with a lime slice|
|Served on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass, garnished with an orange peel|
|Old Fashioned||• Whiskey|
|Served in an Old Fashioned glass, often garnished with an orange slice and a cherry|
|Piña Colada||• Rum|
• Coconut cream
• Pineapple juice
|Served blended or shaken with ice, often in a hurricane glass|
|Sangria||• Red wine|
• Chopped fruit
• Orange juice
|Served in a pitcher or large glass, often garnished with fresh fruit|
• Orange juice
|Served in a highball glass|
|Sex on the Beach||• Vodka|
• Peach schnapps
• Orange juice
• Cranberry juice
|Served in a highball glass, often garnished with an orange slice|
|Tom Collins||• Gin|
• Lemon juice
• Carbonated water
|Served in a Collins glass, often garnished with a lemon slice and a cherry|
|Whiskey Sour||• Whiskey (often bourbon)|
• Lemon juice
|Served in an Old Fashioned glass, often garnished with an orange slice and a cherry|
A classic cocktail that combines vodka, tomato juice and a blend of spices and flavorings, including Worcestershire sauce, hot sauces, garlic, herbs, horseradish, celery, salt and a splash of lemon juice. Often served at brunch, it is recognized for its unique savory flavor.
Popularly known as a “Cosmo,” this cocktail contains vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and freshly squeezed lime juice. This pink-colored cocktail gained popularity during the late ’90s due to its frequent appearance on the show “Sex and the City.”
A rum-based cocktail named after a beach and iron mine near Santiago, Cuba. The classic version combines white rum, lime juice and simple syrup. Its refreshing and tangy flavor makes it a popular tropical drink.
An offshoot of the traditional martini, a Dirty Martini introduces olive brine to the mix. This addition gives the cocktail its distinctive “dirty” color and a savory taste that’s a hit with olive lovers.
A modern classic that blends vodka, coffee liqueur and fresh espresso. This cocktail is both strong and smooth, with a caffeine kick. It’s a popular after-dinner drink.
A simple and refreshing cocktail made with gin and lime juice. The drink has a tart, sweet flavor that can be adjusted to taste.
A warming cocktail made of hot coffee, Irish whiskey, and sugar and topped with cream. This cocktail is often served as an after-dinner drink and is appreciated for its comforting and soothing properties.
Long Island Iced Tea
A high-alcohol-content cocktail that mixes vodka, rum, tequila, gin, triple sec, lemon juice and a splash of cola. Despite its name, it contains no tea.
A classic cocktail made from whiskey, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters. This sophisticated cocktail is usually garnished with a cherry.
This tequila-based cocktail also contains lime juice and Cointreau or triple sec. It’s commonly served with salt on the rim of the glass and is a staple of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines.
A refreshing Cuban cocktail made from white rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water and mint. Its refreshing qualities make it popular during hot weather.
A cocktail made with vodka, spicy ginger beer, and lime juice, garnished with a slice or wedge of lime. Traditionally served in a copper mug.
A classic Italian cocktail consisting of equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari, garnished with an orange peel. It’s known for its bitter, yet balanced, taste.
A whiskey cocktail that typically uses sugar, bitters and water along with the spirit. This cocktail is traditionally served in a short, round glass known as an Old Fashioned glass.
A sweet cocktail made with rum, coconut cream and pineapple juice. It is usually served either blended or shaken with ice and is synonymous with tropical vacations.
A Spanish drink made with red wine and chopped fruit, often with other ingredients such as orange juice or brandy. It’s a popular party drink due to its sweetness and large batch preparation.
A simple but popular, cocktail made with just vodka and orange juice. It’s typically served in a highball glass.
Sex on the Beach
A fun, fruity cocktail made from a combination of vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice and cranberry juice. Despite its provocative name, the drink is known for its sweet, tropical taste.
A refreshing cocktail made from gin, lemon juice, sugar and carbonated water. First memorialized in writing in 1876, it’s a classic summer cocktail.
A cocktail containing whiskey (often bourbon), lemon juice and sugar. It’s typically garnished with a half slice of orange and a maraschino cherry. This cocktail is known for its balance of sweet and sour flavors.
Knowing Your Glassware: A Guide to Different Glass Shapes
The shape of the glass isn’t just about aesthetics—it plays a pivotal role in how a drink is tasted and appreciated. The right glassware can enhance the flavor profile of a drink, preserve its temperature and contribute to the overall drinking experience.
A well-chosen glass can make a drink look more appealing, adding a touch of elegance and sophistication.
Since each glass in your bar serves a unique purpose, counting and cleaning all of these items should be a large part of your bar opening and closing checklist. And understanding the differences will ensure your customers enjoy their drinks to the fullest. It’s not just about what you serve, but also how you serve it that counts.
|Beer Mug||A large, sturdy glass with a handle||Designed to keep beer cool, with the handle preventing warmth transfer from the hand|
|Champagne Flute||Long stem and tall, narrow bowl||Showcases the effervescence and color of champagne, keeping it bubbly longer|
|Cocktail Glass||Wide, shallow bowl and a long stem||Used for serving chilled cocktails without ice, the wide brim allows aroma to reach the drinker|
|Collins Glass||Tall, cylindrical glass, taller than a rocks glass but shorter and wider than a highball||Used for mixed drinks, such as Tom Collins or Mojito|
|Coupe Glass||Stemmed glass with a wide, shallow bowl||Used for serving cocktails or champagne, designed to prevent the champagne bubbles from dissipating quickly|
|Margarita Glass||Broad-rimmed variant of the classic champagne coupe with a stem||The broad rim holds salt for margaritas and other cocktails, the stem allows the drinker to hold the glass without warming the drink|
|Old Fashioned Glass||Short tumbler with a wide brim and thick base||Used for serving spirits or short mixed drinks with plenty of ice|
|Pint Glass||Tall, conical glass that holds one pint of liquid||Perfect for beer, especially ales and lagers|
|Red Wine Glass||Glass with a larger, rounder bowl and a long stem||The larger bowl allows the wine to contact more air to enhance flavor, the stem prevents warming of the wine|
|Shot Glass||Small glass designed to hold or measure spirits or liquor||Used for drinking spirits in one swallow|
|Snifter||Short-stemmed glass with a wide bottom and narrow top||Designed for brandy and cognac, the shape allows swirling without spilling to enhance aroma|
|Tall Glass||Straight-sided glass, taller than a Collins glass||Used for mixed drinks, especially those served on the rocks, the height allows for more mixers, the wide rim releases the drink's aroma|
|White Wine Glass||Slightly smaller than a red wine glass, with a smaller mouth||Smaller mouth concentrates the aroma, smaller bowl keeps white wines cooler|
A beer mug is a large, sturdy glass with a handle, perfect for serving large amounts of beer. The thick glass helps keep the beer cool, while the handle prevents the warmth of your hand from warming the beer.
With its long stem and tall, narrow bowl, the champagne flute is designed to showcase the effervescence and color of champagne and other sparkling wines, keeping them bubbly for longer.
Also known as a martini glass, this glass has a wide, shallow bowl and a long stem. It’s designed for serving chilled cocktails without ice. The wide brim allows the drink’s aroma to reach the drinker’s nose.
A tall, cylindrical glass, also known as a highball glass, often used for alcoholic mixed drink orders, such as a Tom Collins or a Mojito. It is taller than a rocks glass but shorter and wider than a highball.
This stemmed glass has a wide, shallow bowl and is commonly used for serving cocktails or champagne. Its design is said to prevent the champagne bubbles from dissipating too quickly.
A variant of the classic champagne coupe, it has a broad rim for holding salt, used for margaritas and other cocktails. The stem allows the drinker to hold the glass without warming the drink.
Old Fashioned Glass
Also known as a rocks glass or lowball glass, this short tumbler has a wide brim and a thick base, so the drink can be served with plenty of ice. It’s used for serving spirits or short mixed drinks.
A pint glass is a tall, conical glass that holds one pint of liquid—perfect for beer, especially ales and lagers.
Red Wine Glass
This glass has a larger, rounder bowl to allow the wine to come into contact with more air and enhance its flavor. The long stem prevents the hand from warming the wine.
A small glass designed to hold or measure spirits or liquor can be drunk straight from the glass in one swallow.
A short-stemmed glass with a wide bottom and narrow top designed for brandy and cognac. The shape allows the drinker to swirl the spirit without spilling it, enhancing the aroma.
Also known as a highball glass, this straight-sided glass is typically used for mixed drinks, especially those served on the rocks. Its height allows for more mixers, while the wide rim releases the drink’s aroma.
White Wine Glass
Slightly smaller than a red wine glass, it has a smaller mouth to concentrate the aroma. The smaller bowl size also helps to keep white wines at a cooler temperature.
Terminology in Mixed Drinks and Cocktails
In the exciting world of mixed drinks and cocktails, the language can be as diverse as the concoctions themselves. Every term carries weight, defining specific components, methods or characteristics of a drink.
Familiarity with these terms ensures precision in crafting beverages, facilitates effective communication between staff and customers and enhances the overall bar experience. We’ve unraveled some of these terminologies to paint a clearer picture of the cocktail-making process.
|Mixed Drink Term||Definition||Usage in a Bar|
|Bitters||A high-proof spirit infused with fruits, spices, herbs or roots||Used in drops or dashes, bitters add complexity to the flavor of cocktails|
|Crushed Ice||Ice broken down into small pieces||Used in certain cocktails and mixed drinks to chill a drink quickly and help dilute strong spirits|
|Dry||Refers to a drink that is not sweet, often due to the omission or reduction of sweet ingredients||In the context of a martini, 'dry' means the use of less vermouth|
|Lemon Juice||Freshly squeezed lemon juice||Common cocktail ingredient, used to add tartness and acidity to drinks|
|Lime Juice||Freshly squeezed lime juice||Used to lend acidity and sharpness to cocktails|
|Muddle||To crush ingredients using a muddler, a bartender's tool resembling a stick||Action releases the flavors of the muddled ingredients into the drink|
|Neat||A term used when a drink is served without ice, mixers or water||Drink is poured straight from the bottle and served in a rocks glass|
|Olive Juice||Also known as olive brine||Used in certain cocktails like a Dirty Martini to add a salty, savory twist|
|On the Rocks||A term used to denote a drink served over ice cubes||Allows the drink to stay chilled without getting diluted too quickly|
|Shake||To 'shake' a cocktail means to mix the ingredients vigorously with ice in a cocktail shaker||Combines the ingredients and also chills, dilutes, and aerates the drink|
|Sour Bar Mix||A combination of lemon or lime juice and sweetener||Common ingredient in many cocktails|
|Straight Up Drink||A 'straight up' or 'up' drink is a cocktail that is shaken or stirred with ice, then strained and served without ice in a glass||Used for serving cocktails in a neat, chilled format|
|Twist||A thin piece of citrus peel used as a cocktail garnish||The twisting action releases essential oils from the peel into the drink, adding aroma and flavor|
A high-proof spirit infused with fruits, spices, herbs or roots. Used in drops or dashes, bitters add complexity to the flavor of cocktails.
Ice broken down into small pieces, used in certain cocktails and mixed drinks. Crushed ice chills a drink quickly and helps to dilute strong spirits.
In cocktail terminology, “dry” usually refers to a drink that is not sweet, often due to the omission or reduction of sweet ingredients. In the context of martini, ‘dry’ means the use of less vermouth.
Freshly squeezed lemon juice is a common cocktail ingredient used to add tartness and acidity to drinks. It’s a key component in popular cocktails like the Whiskey Sour and Tom Collins.
Just like lemon juice, fresh lime juice is used to lend acidity and sharpness to cocktails. It’s a crucial ingredient in Margaritas, Daiquiris and Mojitos.
To “muddle” means to crush ingredients using a muddler, which is a bartender’s tool resembling a stick. This action releases the flavors of the muddled ingredients into the drink.
A term used when a drink is served without ice, mixers or water. It’s poured straight from the bottle and served in a rocks glass.
Olive juice, also known as olive brine, is used in certain cocktails like a Dirty Martini. It adds a salty, savory twist to the drink.
On the Rocks
A term used to denote a drink served over ice cubes. It allows the drink to stay chilled without getting diluted too quickly.
To ‘shake’ a cocktail means to mix the ingredients vigorously with ice in a cocktail shaker. This not only combines the ingredients but also chills, dilutes and aerates the drink.
Sour Bar Mix
A combination of lemon or lime juice and sweetener, a sour mix is a common ingredient in many cocktails. It’s often used in whiskey sours, margaritas and other mixed drinks.
Straight Up Drink
A ‘straight up’ or ‘up’ drink is a cocktail that is shaken or stirred with ice, then strained and served without ice in a glass.
A “twist” usually refers to a thin piece of citrus peel used as a cocktail garnish. The twisting action releases essential oils from the peel into the drink, adding aroma and flavor.
The vast realm of liquor is full of distinctive terminologies that can seem bewildering at first. However, these terms are more than just industry jargon—they serve as valuable signposts guiding your navigation in the world of spirits.
Interested in how this language denotes the quality, strength, preparation and presentation of various liquors? Let’s uncover the meanings behind some of these common liquor terms.
|Bar Rail||More affordable spirits kept within easy reach on the bar "rail"||Used in mixed drinks where the specific flavor of a high-quality spirit isn't crucial|
|Call Drink||A cocktail or mixed drink with a specified brand of liquor||Customers order a specific brand, such as a "Tanqueray and Tonic"|
|Chaser||A drink consumed immediately after a shot or neat spirit||Served to wash down the strong taste of the liquor|
|Neat||Liquor served pure, without ice, water, or mixers||Served at room temperature to allow the customer to taste the spirit in its unadulterated form|
|Premium||High-quality liquors, often more expensive than standard options||Used in cocktails where the distinctive taste of the spirit is crucial|
|Proof||A measure of alcohol content in a spirit, twice the alcohol by volume percentage||Indicates the strength of the liquor, e.g., 40% alcohol is 80 proof|
|Shot||Small, strong drink of spirit served in a shot glass||Intended to be consumed quickly|
|Stiff Drink||A drink with a high proportion of liquor compared to mixers||Ordered by those seeking a strong, potent drink|
|Straight Liquor||Spirits served without mixers or ice, but can be served chilled||Enjoyed without any dilution or additional flavors|
|Top Shelf Liquor||High-quality liquors displayed on the top shelf of a bar||Often premium brands or craft spirits, available for special occasions or discerning customers|
The term refers to the more affordable spirits that are usually kept within easy reach of the bartender on the “rail” of the bar. Bar rail spirits typically are used in mixed drinks where the specific flavor of a high-quality spirit isn’t as crucial. For instance, “Bar Rail Gin” would be a cost-effective gin used for generic mixed drinks.
A cocktail or mixed drink requested when the customer specifies the brand of liquor is considered a “call drink.” For example, a customer might order a “Tanqueray and Tonic” instead of just a “Gin and Tonic.”
A chaser is a drink that’s consumed immediately after drinking a shot or neat spirit. It can be another alcoholic drink or a non-alcoholic beverage. The purpose is to wash down the strong taste of the liquor.
When a drink is ordered “neat,” it means the liquor is served pure, without any ice, water or other mixers. It’s served at room temperature, allowing the customer to taste the spirit in its unadulterated form.
“Premium” spirits are high-quality liquors that are typically more expensive than standard options. They’re often used in cocktails where the distinctive taste of the spirit plays a crucial role in the flavor of the drink.
Proof is a measure of the amount of alcohol contained in a spirit. In the United States, the proof is exactly twice the alcohol by volume percentage. For example, a spirit that is 40% alcohol is 80 proof.
A “shot” is a small, strong drink of spirit or liquor served in a shot glass. It’s meant to be drunk quickly, not sipped.
A “stiff” drink is one that contains a high proportion of liquor compared to mixers. It’s a strong drink, often ordered by someone who wants their drink to pack a punch.
Straight liquor refers to spirits that are served without mixers or ice, but unlike “neat” drinks, they can be served chilled.
Top Shelf Liquor
“Top shelf” spirits are the high-quality, often more expensive liquors displayed on the top shelf of a bar. These are often premium alcohol brands or small-batch craft spirits.
FAQs: Bar Terminology
What is bar lingo?
Bar lingo is a collection of terms and phrases commonly used in the bar and restaurant industry. The terms cover everything from drink types and preparation methods to customer orders and bar equipment. Whether you’re wondering, “what is a bar back?” or “what is a happy hour?” learning these terms can help your team effectively communicate with customers.
Understanding bar lingo is crucial for bartenders, servers, and bar owners as it enables efficient and precise communication, enhances customer service and aids in creating a seamless and enjoyable bar experience.
What are the numbers in bar terminology?
Numbers in bar terminology usually refer to the portions of ingredients in a cocktail or the size of a pour.
For instance, a “3-2-1” margarita would include three parts tequila, two parts triple sec, and one part lime juice. Meanwhile, a “two-finger pour” means pouring an amount of liquor equal to the width of two fingers against the bottom of the glass, typically about 2 ounces.
What does ‘On the Rocks’ mean in bar terminology?
“On the rocks” is a phrase in bar terminology that refers to a drink served over ice. The term is derived from the ice cubes’ resemblance to small rocks.
Drinks served “on the rocks” are typically straight distilled spirits or simple mixed drinks. The ice chills the drink without diluting it too quickly, allowing the customer to enjoy it cool over a period of time.
Why are certain drinks served in a tall glass?
Certain drinks are served in a tall glass, often known as a highball or Collins glass, to accommodate larger volumes of non-alcoholic mixers along with the alcoholic ingredient.
This glass style is typically used for long drinks that are designed to be sipped and enjoyed over a longer period. The shape of the glass also allows the drink to remain cooler for longer, enhancing the overall drinking experience.
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