top of page

Liquor Guide

This section is still under construction and is the next big phase on Social Hour.  In the coming months, I’ll be adding individual pages for each category of booze to help you better navigate the liquor store.  These pages will include comprehensive definitions of different styles of liquor as well as production details, how to use each in cocktails and some of my personal brand recommendations.  In the meantime, you can see a streamlined look at the first bottles you should stock on the  How to Build a Bar page.  

Page Index​​​

§ Caterogry Overview                        † How it's Made                        *Brand Recommendations

How Spirits Are Made

This section is a deep dive into the major stages of spirit production and the different tools and techniques used to shape them.  This information will help to put all the details covered on the individual spirit category pages in context, with the ultimate goal of helping you make better and more informed decisions at the liquor store, and thus better cocktails.  This is undoubtedly the nerdiest, science-heavy corner of the site. Biology and chemistry await!

Spirt Categories

Spirit Categories

A spirit, aka hard liquor, is a fermented beverage that has been distilled to at least 40% alcohol by volume (ABV) or 37.5% in the EU.   For example, when beer and wine are distilled they become whiskey and brandy, respectively.  Spirits are used in cocktails in the largest quantities, which is why they’re also sometimes referred to as “base spirits.” 

Modifiers & Bitters

Modifiers & Bitters

Modifier is a term coined by bartenders for an ingredient that's used as a secondary flavor in a cocktail, in support of the base spirit, for example, the vermouth in a Manhattan or Martini. They are usually a lower proof, but not always, and are typically either wine-based (vermouth/fortified wine), or spirit based (liqueur).


Bitters are an intensely concentrated infusion of herbs, roots and other botanicals. They are usually alcohol-based, though some are glycerin-based.  I think of bitters like cooking spices; they are used in small quantities to enhance and deepen other flavors, not to be the primary one.  

A Note on Aperitifs & Digestifs

Many products that fall under the modifier umbrella are also consumed straight and unaccompanied as aperitifs or digestifs, which are drinks taken before or after a meal, respectively.  But to be clear, these are not specific categories of alcohol.  A cocktail could also be served as an aperitif, for example.  So, while some bottles may have “aperitif” or "digestif" printed on their label, it is more of a serving suggestion or declaration of style, rather than an official classification.

bottom of page