Cocktail Lingo to Help You Navigate Your Local Bar

Whether you're ordering a cocktail at a bar or making drinks for guests at home, knowing the lingo can be a time-saving, fun tidbit of trivia that can open up your own cocktail creativity and skill!  You'll know just what to get when a recipe calls for bitters or what to say when someone asks, "Does shaken actually different than stirred?" If you'd like to brush up on your martini making know-how, here are the words to do it with.

Ordering a Cocktail

  • Dirty cocktails are ones mixed with briny olive juice, which tends to cloud the drink.
  • Dry usually refers to martinis that contain only a small amount of vermouth; the more vermouth is in a martini, the "wetter" it is.
  • Neat is a drink that has been poured directly from the bottle - no mixer or garnishes.
  • On the Rocks just means that the drink is poured over ice.
  • Straight Up or Up is a drink that is shaken or stirred in a mixer and then served into a chilled glass.

Cocktail Equipment

  • A jigger is made up of two cups - one with a 1.5 ounce capacity and one with a 1 ounce capacity - that are used to measure liquids.
  • A muddling is a long instrument of about 6-8 inches in length that is used to mash up the non-liquid cocktail ingredients (garnishes like cherry or mint).
  • Shakers are stainless steel or glass containers used to mix up drinks!

  Making a Cocktail

  • Bitters are additives made of all kinds of herbs and spices. They come in all of the general flavors: sweet, spicy, bitter, and salty, though it's better not to overuse them!
  • A dash actually has a real measurement - it's about 1/6th of a teaspoon or 1/32 of an ounce! Similarly, a splash amounts to about 1/8th of a teaspoon.
  • Rimming a glass means you wet the rim of a glass, and then dipping it in sugar, salt, or some other dry ingredient.
  • Rinsing a glass means pouring alcohol into it (depends on the recipe) and swirling it around in the glass so the sides are completely coated.
  • A score is a twist of citrus or citrus rind of about 2-3 inches in length that is used as a decorative garnish, draped on the edge of a glass.
  • A shot or a pony both measure at exactly 1 ounce.
  • Shaken drinks are, as the name suggests, shaken in a mixer. This process breaks up the ice and adds more water to the drink, diluting it and changing the flavor. It also creates air bubbles in the drink, which can give it a cloudier look.
  • Stirred drinks are less bubbly and more "pure" than shaken drinks; the lack of air bubbles and added water means the drink will be fuller in flavor.

  Photo Credits: Long Island Press, My Recipes, Examiner