Bar Terms

It’s fun to have a bar set up at home, ready for a party as soon as the gang arrives. Having all the goods is one thing but knowing a few bar terms will put a little finesse into your act and dazzle your guests.

Mixing a drink simply means combining an alcoholic beverage with a non-alcoholic beverage for added flavor. Highballs, cocktails, fizzes, frappés, and punches are all mixed drinks.

Proof is a measure of alcohol content where each degree of proof is equal to ½ of 1% of alcohol. Liquor that is 100 proof is actually 50% alcohol. Most liquors are 80 to 90 proof, or 40% to 45% pure alcohol.

Mixers add variety to the liquors in your bar. They include fruit juices (usually orange, pineapple, grapefruit, tomato), soft drinks (Coke, 7-up, and ginger ale are most popular), club soda, and tonic water.

Simple syrup is added to many cocktails and is easy to make and store. Simply heat equal parts water and sugar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Once cooled, keep in a bottle near the bar or in a refrigerator.

Some drinks are better stirred. Simply fill a glass with ice, pour a jigger of liquor over it, fill the glass with the desired mixer, and add a straw. The liquids get combined during the making of it but it’s almost impossible not to use the straw for stirring as well as sipping. Drinks made from carbonated mixers are always stirred, never shaken.

Some drinks are better shaken. Fill a cocktail shaker about 2/3 full with ice, add liquor(s) and other flavoring agents, close the shaker top, and shake until the shaker becomes cold to the touch. Use a strainer to pour the beverage, but not the ice, into a chilled glass. Shaking carbonated beverages makes an explosive mess and takes all the fizz out of the carbonated liquid.

Frappés are less-icy versions of the frozen drinks so popular during the summertime. You’ll need a blender for these drinks. Simply fill the blender with ice (1/4 full for frappés, at least half full for frozen drinks), add liquor(s) and other ingredients, and blend until the ice has become slushy.

Once a drink has been assembled, by whichever method is appropriate, some recipes call for floating a liqueur on top. Floating means gently pouring a teaspoon or two of a liqueur on top of the mixed drink. One of the most popular drinks with a floating liqueur is the Harvey Wallbanger (vodka, orange juice, and a float of Galliano).

Chilled drinks served without ice are most refreshing when shaken, then served in a chilled glass. Keep an ample supply of glasses in a refrigerator or freezer near the bar or quick chill by filling the glass with ice, then topping it off with water, while the drink is assembled and shaken. Dump the ice water and fill it with the prepared beverage.

Flambéed beverages are finished with a very high proof liquor floated on top, then set afire. This very dramatic presentation requires some practice and a high ceiling. Alcohol burns at a low temperature but it’s fire nevertheless.

Garnishes are the finishing touches that make drinks attractive. Common garnishes include maraschino cherries, orange slices, lemon and lime wedges, olives, pearl onions, celery sticks, and cucumber slices. Those cute little paper umbrellas are garnishes, too.