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Bartending Glossary Guide

bar-tend-er [bahr-ten-der] noun a person who mixes and serves alcoholic drinks at a bar.

The world of bartending has a language all its own. To be a great bartender, you must know everything inside and out about the profession. This glossary is filled with everyday restaurant terms, bar lingo, and bar terms that every bartender must know.

All things BAR
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86 Out of a particular item.

Bartender's translation: The first thing your next customer will want to order, cause you didn't tell them you were out.

Absinthe Anise flavored spirit that is derived from botanicals. Absinthe is prepared traditionally by placing a sugar cube on top of a specially designed slotted spoon that rests on top of your glass that has been filled with absinthe. Iced water is then poured or dripped over the sugar cube in a manner so that water is slowly and evenly displaced into the absinthe.

Age The amount of time Tequila, Brandy, Whiskey, Scotch, Bourbon, Cognac, Wine, or Rum have been stored. Traditionally stored in Oak Barrels to enhance flavors.

Alcohol By Volume (ABV) Use to measure the alcohol content of a drink. It is half the amount of proof in the drink.

Ale Type of beer brewed with hops from malted barley. Most have a sweet, full bodied fruity taste. In modern times, quite a few types of ales have become common: Brown Ale, Pale Ale, Golden Ale, Scotch Ale, Stout Ale, Mild Ale, Burton Ale, Old Ale, Belgian Ale.

Amaretto A liqueur made from apricot pits, and has a slight bitter almond taste.

Apéritif A liquor or cocktail that stimulates your appetite.

Back A non-alcoholic drink that is meant to accompany a cocktail. Commonly used as a chaser, or some patrons just like to mix their own cocktails.

Bar Mix Combination of lemon and sugar. Also called Sweet & Sour Mix.

Bar Syrup / Simple Syrup Sweet mixture made with equal parts sugar and boiling water. Simple syrup is perfect for adding sweetness to drinks like Mojitos.

Base Liquor The main liquor ingredient in a drink.

Premium Bar BittersBitters Made from herbs, roots, bark and berries (or other fruit). Bitters come in many different premium flavors enhanced the flavor of cocktails.

Blend Combining ingredients in a blender and completely mixing them together.

Bartender's translation: If you would like a strong drink, order it on the ROCKS!

Boston Shaker A metal shaker and a 16 to 20 oz mixing glass.

Box A quick pour in and out of the cocktail shaker is given to the drink so as to mix it without shaking.

Bruised A drink that has been over shaken. May appear to look "murky"

Bartender's translation: "NO sir there is nothing wrong with the alcohol...it is called ICE".

Buck A Highball made with a base spirit, lemon juice, and ginger ale.

Build The simplest and oldest method of drink making. It is when the ingredients are poured into the glass in the order they will be served.

Bartender's translation: Mind Erasers are a great drink to test your "building" skills, and we say drink it too...quality control.

Burn the Well / Burn the Ice Melting the remaining ice in the well at the end of the night. Also MUST be done if broken glass falls into the well.

Bartender's translation: You won't get a good tip if you serve your customers glass shards.

Call Drink The liquor in the cocktail is a defined brand of liquor. You are "calling" what type of liquor to be used in the drink. When ordering a call drink, it is always best to name the brand first and then the mixer.

Chambord French liqueur made from black raspberries.

Chaser A drink that is consumed after an alcohol beverage. It is usually after a straight shot of liquor, but sometimes chasers follow drinks. They tend to be less potent than the original. Beer, sodas, juice, and water are the most common types. Pineapple juice makes a great chaser following Tequila shots.

Bartender's translation: Chasers are what little girls drink after taking shots.

girl drinking jager bomb shot Chill A cold drink. Most people use this when they are ordering shots like tequila that have the option of also being served at room temperature.

Church Key Hand operated bottle opening device created for simple prying off beer caps. Originally, it was created in 1898 and was shaped like a large key.

Cider A drink made by fermenting apple juice. Flavored with sugar and spices.

Cloudy A cocktail that has been shaken will sometimes have a cloudy look from quickly being chilled. The cloudiness will settle after the drink has rested.

Cobbler Drink served in Collins or highball with crushed ice, fresh fruit and mint.

Cocktail A mixed drink that has 3 or more ingredients. One of these ingredients must be a type of liquor for the drink to be considered a cocktail. Typically made with juice and served chilled.

Collins A cocktail made with sour mix and soda water. Either Vodka or Gin can be used, depending on the preference of the guests. This beverage is usually served in a Tall (Collins) glass.

Cognac A brandy made with a certain type of grape that only grows in Cognac, France.

Comp A drink given out for free. Complimentary. Often written on a comp sheet.

Bartender's translation: "Someone screwed up, or you really like the customer".

Comp Sheet Written list of drinks that were give away for free during a shift.

Cordial A sweet liquor made from berries, fruit pulp, juices, or herbs.

Crusta A type of drink that was invented in the early 1800s. It is served in a glass that is completely lined with the peel of a lemon or orange, that has been cut into a continuous strip.

Curacao Liqueur flavored with orange peels. Named after the Caribbean Island that produces them.

Draft Beer Beer poured into a glass from a keg. Also called Tap Beer.

Dash Small amount of flavouring that is added to a cocktail. This tends to be a judgement call on how much to add, but it is approximately 1/2 tsp, just a few drops. It is enough to be noticed, but not so much that it overwhelms the drink.

Dirty Olive juice (brine) is added which "dirties" a clear liquor. Customers can request a drink be a little dirty or extra dirty depending on how much juice they want added. Usually requested for martinis, but some like Bloody Marys dirty as well.

Double Two shots in one drink.

Bartender's translation: I'm trying to get drunk.

Dry Regarding the amount of Dry Vermouth in a Martini. The less Vermouth, the drier the Martini.

Extra Dry Very small amount of vermouth in a Martini. Roughly a bar spoon of vermouth to 3 ounces of Gin or Vodka.

Fifth 750ml, 1/5 of a gallon, or 25.4 ounces.

Finger Form of measurement by placing your finger horizontally on a glass and pour till it reaches the top of the finger. Measures out to be roughly 1 ounce.

Fizz Drink made with club soda.

Flame A cocktail that is lit on fire as it is served for visual effect. A high proof liquor is floated on top in order to achieve this effect. This is a trick that should only be preformed by experienced bartenders, as it can be very dangerous if not done the correct way. Don't use a chilled glass for this effect. Always light the liquor with a match and never try to drink while the flame is still lit! You can also twist a fruit rind over the flame to create a sparkle effect.


Float Liquid that is balanced on the top layer of a drink, so that it has the effect of "floating" on top. Shots can have a great visual effect when served in a layered style. Refer to Density Chart to determine which liquors are the heaviest and should be poured first.

Free Pour Pouring liquor into a glass without using a jigger for measurement.

bartender free pouringFrost Drink prepared in a blender, with ice or ice cream.

Garnish Food or object that accompanies a drink. Cherries, Lemons, Limes, Olives, Onions and drink umbrellas are just a few examples.

Bartender's translation: Garnish drinks with ingredients that are in the drink, or something that will make it seem more visually appealing.

Gin An alcohol made from malted grain, and flavored with juniper berries.

Grenadine A red, sweet syrup made from pomegranates and red currants. Grenadine acts as a colouring and sweetener.

Bartender's translation: When in doubt...make it pink.

Grog Originally a beverage made only of Rum and water, it now contains Rum, hot water, lime juice and sugar.

Gun/ Soda Gun Dispenses various drink mixers. At least one behind every bar.

Hawthorne Strainer This the typical bar strainer, that works well with a cocktail shaker or mixing glass. It has prongs and coils for a easy and steady hold while staining the ice from the liquid of the cocktail.

Head 3/4 to an inch of foam sitting on top of a beer in the glass.

Bartender's translation: This is how a beer should be served.

Highball An 8 ounce to 12 ounce glass. Commonly used for Rum & Coke, Gin & Tonic, 7 & 7, among others.

Ice Well Metal box behind the bar. Holds ice for the bar. Typically has a Speed Rail attached.

bartender using jigger Jigger A bar tool used for measuring a shot of liquor. Jiggers come in many sizes and variations. A typical US shot measures 1.5 fl oz. The smaller end is usually some fraction of the measurement size. Typically it is 1/2 shot sized.

Irish Cream A rich liqueur made from cream, Irish Whiskey and sweetener.

Julep Bourbon, mint and sugar muddled together. Served over crushed ice.

Bartender's translation: Is the Kentucky Derby on TV?

Julep Strainer A large round shaped strainer typically used for making specialty drinks like mint juleps. The julep strainer has no prongs or coils and is meant for use with a mixing glass.

Kirsch Liqueur distilled from black cherries.

Lace Last ingredient of a cocktail, poured on top.

Last Call Last chance to order drinks. Given 30 to 45 minutes prior to closing time.

Bartender's translation: If you don't live here, or sleep with someone who works here, get out of the bar!

Layer Used for shots, it is taking different liquors and juices with different densities and colors, and layering them in a glass.

Long Drink A mixed drink not served in a cocktail glass. In a tall glass.

Lowball Also known as a rocks glass, or an old fashioned glass, typically used for drinks "on the rocks".

Marrying Combing the contents of one bottle into another.

Bartender's translation: Illegal.

Mist Pouring a prepared drink over crushed ice.

Mixer A non-alcoholic addition to a liquor. Typically they are soda, juices, and water.

bartender muddling Muddle Using a muddler to mash fruits, herbs, and spices in the bottom of a glass or shaker to release their oils, juices, and flavors.

Mulls A warmed beverage, beer, wine or cider with spices and sweetener added to it.

NA Non Alcoholic.

Neat Liquor served at room temperature in an old fashioned glass. It is served this way so that they can sip on the liquor, not shoot it.

Bartender's translation: Just pour the liquor in the glass.

Negus Wine, commonly port, heated with sugar and spices.

Nip Measurement sometimes used for alcohol. It measures to 1/3 pint, or quarter of a bottle.

Nightcap An beverage consumed just before going to bed. Traditionally they are brandy, bourbon, or Irish Cream.

On the fly Needed immediately, or faster.

Bartender's translation: "O crap, I forgot to put in my customers order...I need it on the fly!".

On the rocks Straight liquor poured and consumed on ice in a rocks glass.

Par Stock Backup bottles of liquor, both full and opened.

Parts Some recipes call for drinks to be mixed in parts, which is usually just a relative measurement. Most of the time this is used when mixing large batches that might not require exact perfection.

Peel Twist of citrus peel used as a garnish.

Perfect Adding both sweet and dry vermouth. Garnished with a twist.

Pick Me Up Drink that relieves the pains caused by the overindulgence of alcohol. Also known as Hair of the Dog.

Bartender's translation: Hangover drink.

Pony One ounce of liquor.

Pour Mats / Spill Mats Rubber mats placed around the bar to catch spilled liquid.

Bartender's translation: Jersey Turnpike Shots all around.

Press Half Sprite and half club soda mixed with the guests' choice of alcohol.

bartender rimming glassProof Amount of alcohol content in a spirit.

Ricky A drink made with choice of liquor, juice of half a lime and topped with club soda.

Rim Some drinks call for salt or sugar on the rim of a glass, such as Margaritas.

Roll Liquors are poured into one glass, then into another and back again to ensure mixing.

Sake Wine made from rice.

Schnapps A strong, clear liquor that comes in a variety of flavors.

Service Bar Area of bar where servers pick up drinks for their tables.

Bartender's translation: This is NOT the right place to order drinks.

Shaken Mixing a liquor with ice in a shaker to chill it, then serve it straight up. Also used to mix two or more liquors together while chilling it.

Bartender's translation: James Bond style.

Shaker / Tin A metal or plastic tin, when used with a mixing glass or cheater tin, shakes a liquid mixture with ice. Also used to chill straight liquors for drinks that are served Up.

bartender and server Short A drink prepared in a short glass, with a little amount of mixer. Typically served in a rocks glass.

Shot Any alcohol served in a shot glass.

Shooter Mixed alcoholic drink served in a shooter or rocks glass.

Simple Syrup / Bar Syrup Sweet mixture made with equal parts sugar and boiling water.

Sink Pouring or "dropping" a denser liquor into an already prepared cocktail. It sinks to the bottom.

Skinny Leaving out high calorie mixers, such as not adding sour mix to a Margarita.

Bartender's translation: Skinny Mixes make life a lot easier.

Sling Brandy, Gin, or Whiskey made with lemon juice, club soda and sugar, served in a tall glass.

Sour A short drink consisting of liquor, lemon/lime juice and sugar

Sparkling Carbonated.

Speed Opener / Church Key Metal tool used to pry off beer bottle caps quickly and easily.

Speed Pourer A plastic or stainless steel spout that fits on top of liquor bottles. Helps regulate speed of pour for accurate measurements.

Speed Rail / Speed Rack Metal rack in front of a bartender that holds the commonly used "well" liquor bottles. Sometimes holds very common "call" liquor bottles. Typically connected to the ice well.

Spirits Alcoholic beverages that have been distilled, are unsweetened, and have are at leave 20% Alcohol by Volume.

bartener pouring cocktailSplash Small amount of mixer in a cocktail.


Spritzer A drink made with red, white, or rose wine and club soda served on ice.

Stir Using a bar spoon to chill a liquor, or mix two or more ingredients.

Straight Up A drink that is chilled and strained into a glass. Usually a martini glass. Also just called Up.

Sweet Sweet Vermouth is added to a mixed cocktail.

Tall A customer wants a bigger glass but the same amount of liquor. Great for people who want weaker cocktails.

Bartender's translation: Ordering drinks this way is not a cleaver way to get a stronger drink, you will just get more mixer.

Toddy A drink made with a liquor, spices, and hot water, served in a tall glass.

Tonic Carbonated beverage flavored with quinne, lemon and lime.

Top Off Also known as lace, it is the last ingredient of a drink, poured on top.

Topless No salt on the rim of a margarita glass.

Top Shelf A drink made with expensive liquor. Also can be called a Super Call. Usually includes liquors like Grey Goose, Kettle One, Johnny Walker Black, Patron, Bombay Saphire.

Tot Small amount of liquor.

Twist A strip of a fruit peel shaped into a twisted style. Most common are lemon twists. It is used to flavor the rim of the glass, then dropped into the drink.

Up / Straight Up A drink mixed with ice, and strained into a glass.

Virgin An alcoholic beverage that contains no alcohol. A Virgin Pina Colada contains no rum.

Bartender's translation: "I hope they tip the same."

Wedge A sliced garnish for cocktails. Lemon, Limes, and Oranges among others.

Well Drink A drink made with non brand name liquor. Rum & Coke, Gin & Tonic, Whisky & Water.

Wet Adding extra mixer to a drink.

Wheel Fruit cut into a wheel shape for garnish, and placed on the rim of a glass.

With A bottle of beer with a chilled glass or mug.

With salt The glass is rimmed with kosher or flavored salt. Margaritas are usually rimmed with salt.

Zest Outer layers of fruit peels containing essential oils.


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