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08 Sep 2016 By

The booze business throws up a lot of wicked words. So from A-Z, here are 26 arrant words about alcohol we really like. Because sometimes you really need the mot juste.

There are so many words, many much more words than Donald Trump knows, that are used to describe alcohol, the booze business, cocktail culture and drinking details. The space between the liquid and the top of the bottle? There’s a word for it. A toothpick with more than one type of garnish on it? There’s a word for it. Here from A to Z are 26 of our favourites:


Ageism: Don’t be a jerk, and don’t judge a whisky on its years, because it’s all about how it tastes, not how old it is. The older ones are more expensive only because there’s less of it (angel’s share, storage etc.). When you say, “I prefer the Glenfiddich 18 to the 12 because it’s older”, you are being a jerk. And ignorant as well.


Brix: The scientific measurement of how much sugar is in a grape.

Call Drink: A cocktail order in which the spirit in specified: “I’d like a Hendricks Martini please.”

Delirium Tremens: A psychotic condition typical of withdrawal in chronic alcoholics, involving tremors, hallucinations, anxiety, and disorientation. (Otherwise known as Saturday morning.)

wine barrels enology

Enology: The study of wine-making, not to be confused with viticulture, the study of grape growing and growing. Or Entomology, the study of insects. My head hurts.

Flag: A garnish made with two or more fruits (orange wedge + maraschino cherry) skewered together on a cocktail pick.

Gentleman’s Pour: A standard shot is 30ml, a Gentleman’s Pour is more generous at 45ml. Embrace the bars that do this.

Hand Selling: This has happened to you, when the sommelier highlights a wine on the menu you might have overlooked – in order to entice you to buy it – because it’s unique or is an obscure bottling.

Intensity: Not the season finale of Game of Thrones, but a subjective term used to describe wines with regards to flavour, aroma or colour.

Junmai: A grade of sake made from only water, rice, koji mold and yeast; no ethyl alcohol is added or allowed.

kosher jerusalem wine

Kosher: To be considered kosher, Sabbath-observant Jews must supervise and sometimes handle the entire winemaking process, from the time the grapes are crushed until the wine is bottled and any ingredients used, including finings, must be kosher.

Lewis Bag: A canvas bag repurposed as a tool to crush ice. Ice cubes are placed inside the bag, and placed on a sturdy surface and beaten with a mallet until the ice screams(!) or you’ve gotten your desired size. The bag also helps to wick away excess water.

Modifier: A cocktail term for ingredients that aren’t the base spirits, it includes wines, liqueurs, eggs, juices and dairy ingredients, though its exact boundaries vary. (Bitters and syrups can be considered “accents”.)

New Make: An official term for spirits that have just been made, usually whisky. The spirit is undiluted and clear, because it hasn’t been aged in a barrel yet. Technically drinkable.

Overproof rum: You know those tiki or tropical cocktails that are set on fire? That’s overproof rum they’re using, which is often above 60% ABV.

drunk guy

Pregustator: A person whose job is to taste food or drink before it’s served. Yes, it’s a thing.

Quinine: An extract from the bark of the cinchona tree that when ingested can mitigate malaria symptoms. An essential part of a tonic which, though difficult, you can make on your own.

Radler: A sister to the shandy, falling between a beer and a highball (and, sometimes, a boilermaker), the German radler borrows traits from both. Though there is no strict recipe, the radler most often consists of beer and citrus soda.

Succus: Juice, fluid. “For this reason, the extract and succus are usually prepared during the months of September and October.”
Hugh Chisholm; Encyclopedia Britannica; 1922

Typicity: A wine-tasting term that indicates how closely that wine exhibits characteristics that conform to the archetypical example of its grape or region. “This Barolo has great typicity because it tastes like yada, yada, yada.”

Ullage: The headspace between the top of the bottle and the liquid in it, usually in a wine context. An older bottle will have a larger ullage (from evaporation, natch).

female cocktail beach

Virgin: A mixed drink made without alcohol, like a Virgin Daiquiri… which is maybe kinda missing the point.

Wheel: A cocktail garnish usually made from medium-sized fruits, like oranges. Sometimes it’s pretty, sometimes it drives you nuts.

Xanthan Gum: A derivative of a bacterium— wait, come back! Commonly used as a thickener, and it can enhance and stabilise the foam in egg white cocktails. [‘X’ is tough, okay?]

Yard Glass: You’ve probably drank from this before, it’s a yard long and holds 1.4 litres of beer. Yes, it’s all coming back to you now…

Zymurgy: The study or practice of fermentation in brewing, winemaking, or distilling.


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