As well as being enjoyable in their own right, alcoholic drinks are frequently used as ingredients in recipes. This page lists the most common types of drink. See also Cocktails for mixed drinks, and Beverages in the Cookbook for drink recipes not normally considered part of mixology.
Alcoholic Beverage Ingredients
Alcoholic beverages can be served straight (also called neat), meaning there is only one ingredient (a particular type of alcohol), or mixed. Most mixed drinks include other ingredients, or mixers, besides the alcohol or blend of alcohols. Common mixers include carbonated beverages, sweeteners, bitters, flavorings, colorings, sauces, and salt. Ice is an important ingredient in many mixed drinks, whether the drink is poured over the ice or the ice is blended as part of the beverage. Mixed drinks also include non-alcoholic, or "virgin", cocktails, which are generally made in the same manner, but leaving out the alcohol.
In nearly every bartender's stock, you will find these basic ingredients, which are key to making a wide variety of drinks.
- Bourbon - Kentucky whiskey
- Gin - distilled spirit flavored with juniper berries and other botanicals
- Rum, Dark - flavorful distilled spirit from sugar cane
- Rum, White - lightly flavored distilled spirit from sugar cane
- Scotch - Scottish whisky, more smoky than other whisky.
- Tequila - flavorful distilled Mexican spirit from the agave plant
- Triple Sec or Cointreau - orange flavored liqueurs
- Vermouth, Dry - a common aromatized mixer wine
- Vermouth, Sweet - a common aromatized mixer wine
- Vodka - clear, nearly flavorless distilled spirit
- Wine, White - more delicately flavored than red wine
Beyond the Basics
After stocking a bar with the basics, it is time to grow in new directions. These common ingredients help to expand the variety and diversity of the drinks you can provide to your patrons.
- Beer, Lager
- Flavored Spirits/Liquors - the more flavors, the wider range of cocktails you can serve
- High-Proof Spirits - any spirit or liquor with a high alcohol content (e.g., Bacardi 151 or Everclear)
- Kahlua - coffee flavored liqueurs
- Local Variants and Locally Distilled Alcohols - regional differences highlight different alcohols (e.g., sake, pisco, ouzo)
- Pre-mixed Mixers - the ingredients for several popular mixed drinks (martinis, margaritas, mudslides, etc.) are available pre-mixed; all you do is add the alcohol
- Schnapps - peach and peppermint are common flavors
- Whiskey, Rye - Tennessee whiskey
- Wine, Red - more robustly flavored than white wine
Mixed drinks where the primary ingredients by volume are one or more distilled alcohols are referred to as cocktails.
The term spirits includes brandy, rum, vodka and whiskey. These are made by distilling weaker drinks to concentrate the alcohol content to 35 per cent or more.
- Arak (Middle East)
- Arrack (South Asia and South-East Asia)
- Vodka (Northern Europe)
- Tequila - made from distillation of Mexican agave plant (not cactus)
- Calvados - French spirit made by distilling hard cider
- Shochu - Japanese spirit made from koji and starch / sugar based ingredients with ~30 to ~90 percent alcohol by volume.
- Cachaça (pronounced [kuh.chah.'suh]) - Brazilian spirit made from sugar cane
Fermented alcohols are most often served "straight", without mixing. However, many enjoyable mixed drinks can be made by combining a fermented alcohol with other ingredients. Such drinks are usually referred to as mixes (beer mix, wine mix, etc.) or punches, rather than "cocktails".
Beer is any variety of alcoholic drink produced by the brewing process: fermentation of starchy material derived from grains or other plant sources, such as malted barley or wheat. Beer typically has an alcoholic strength of from 3 to 8 per cent. The main categories of Beer are Ale and Lager.
Cider and Perry
Cider (known as 'hard cider' in the US) is made by fermenting apple juice; the less common perry is made by fermenting pear juice. Both can be made in a variety of styles, but the alcoholic strength is usually similar to that of beer.
Wine usually has an alcohol content of between 10 and 15 percent, and is made by fermentation of grape juice. Fortified wine, such as Port, Sherry and Madeira, is made by adding brandy to wine before the completion of the wine's fermentation process, increasing the strength to around 20 percent.