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.
§ 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!
Several other elements have an influence on the final product including the barrel's size, shape, condition, the species of oak, and the surrounding climate.
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.”
For cocktails, you'll typically use American whiskey.
London Dry Gin, or simply, Dry Gin, is what you'll typically use in cocktails, though, recently, other intriguing new styles have begun to emerge.
Expanded Page Coming Soon...
Rum can be made anywhere - though most comes from the Caribbean and Latin America - and is barrel-aged for as little, or as long, as desired.
Expanded page coming soon...
Both can be aged, though it is more common with tequila. In either case, always look for labels that say 100% agave. Expanded page coming soon...
Because of its neutrality, vodka is a blank canvas and the most adaptable spirit in cocktails.
Expanded Page Coming Soon...
But there are several others, notably Apple brandy - made in France (Calvados) and the U.S. - and Pisco, the un-aged grape brandy from Peru and Chile. Expanded page coming soon…
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.
Some are specific flavors, like peach or apricot liqueur, others are original creations, like Chartreuse or Benedictine.
Page coming soon…